How to Read a Pollen Chart: A Friendly Guide to Pollen Counts
As an allergy sufferer (or the parent of one!), you probably already know the importance of planning ahead, whether you’re booking a vacation, choosing a restaurant for dinner, or just wondering if tomorrow is a good day for a long run. A little foresight can help you manage your asthma or allergy symptoms and be prepared for whatever life throws at you.
Count on pollen counts
If outdoor allergens get your sniffling, sneezing and wheezing, checking the pollen counts in your area (or the area you’re planning to visit) is a great way to plan ahead and keep on top of your symptoms. Some excellent sites for this are Pollen.com’s allergy report and The Weather Channel’s allergy tracker. These sites not only give current pollen counts, but also provide pollen forecasts for the week. Just enter your zipcode to get information on tree pollen, grass pollen, and other outdoor allergens that may be driving you crazy.
Allergy management apps
There are also several awesome allergy alert apps for your smartphone. These are a convenient way to stay on top of the latest pollen counts, get weekly forecasts and alerts, and even track your symptoms. Check out Zyrtec’s AllergyCast, Pollen.com’s Allergy Alert, or WebMD Allergy, to name a few. The best part? They’re free!
But what does “pollen count” actually mean?
The pollen count tells you the natural airborne concentration of a particular pollen, i.e., how many pollen grains there are per cubic meter of air. More simply put, pollen counts measure how much pollen is in the air. Usually 50 grains or less is considered low, 1000 or more is considered high. The more pollen in the air, the more you breathe in, the more sticks to your hair, skin, etc., and the worse your symptoms get.
Remember that the weather also matters, so take it into account. Windy days kick pollen around in the air, whereas rainy days tend to lessen the amount of airborne outdoor allergens. There is some thought that time of day matters and that counts are highest in early morning and late evening, but the results of research on this have been mixed, so use this info judiciously. If you are keeping careful track of your symptoms, you may notice a clear pattern of certain times of day being better or worse for you. Keep that in mind when you’re planning your day.
Know what you’re looking at
It’s important to note that each of these allergy forecast sites report on the pollen count a little differently. For example, the Weather Channel’s allergy tracker uses a color system. Pollen.com uses pollen levels on a scale of 12. Then there’s how each site represents the information visually— some use bar charts, some use segmented ring graphs, some use cute pictures of flowers. You get the idea!
Try not to be overwhelmed with all this info — pick the one you like best, and use it. Remember, the goal is to present the information they have to you in a clear, simple, way. Just look carefully at the chart or diagram, especially the key or legend, and make sure you understand exactly what you’re looking at.
OK, now what do I do with all this information?
Now that you’re on top of allergy forecasts and pollen counts, you can use this info to help you plan ahead. During high allergen alert days, you may wish to choose indoor activities, and save that 5-mile nature hike for a day with a lower count. And on days you know will have a high pollen count, consider taking your allergy medication as soon as you wake up, before your symptoms have a chance to set in. (For even more great tips on handling outdoor allergens, check out our previous blog post!)
So there it is, a rundown on pollen counts! By staying on top of pollen forecasts with helpful websites and cool apps, you can better plan your week and (almost) always be prepared for potential allergy issues. Now get planning, get going, and don’t let allergies stop you from having an awesome summer!