Rochester Shatters Pollen Count Record

June 19, 2003

Pollen levels in the Rochester area have reached record highs in the last 48 hours, causing itchy eyes, sneezing and wheezing among people who have never experienced allergy symptoms.

Donald Pulver, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who specializes in the treatment of allergies and asthma, has been tracking local pollen counts since 1993. "We've never seen anything like this before," Pulver says. He theorizes that a warm winter allowed trees to continue to grow and sprout many more buds this spring. That, coupled with the record heat from yesterday, unleashed pollen "like a popcorn popper."

A week ago, on April 11, the pollen count in Rochester was a moderate 71 pollen grains per cubic millimeter, Pulver reports. In the 24-hour period from 7 a.m. Monday, April 15 to 7 a.m. Tuesday, April 16, the count rose to 526, which is considered high but not record-setting. But during the next 24-hour period, ending at 7 a.m. today, the count skyrocketed to 4,023 pollen grains per cubic millimeter.

The previous high was 2,800, recorded last spring, on April 24, 2001. The major culprits are maple, birch and poplar trees, Pulver says.

Allergy symptoms include: itching, tearing, redness, and puffiness around the eyes; sneezing and a runny nose; coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath. Pulver says that once the pollen count soars above 1,500, anyone can experience symptoms.

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