How Your A/C Can Help You Fight Off Pollen This Spring

Airborne allergens are at their highest levels in spring, as this is the time most plants are actively pollinating. The male gametes of a plant (pollen) can be carried any numbers of ways – via animals and insects, by water or through the air – to pollinate the female stigma of another plant. This allows us to enjoy beautiful blooms all throughout spring, but also brings on unwanted symptoms such as itchy eyes, scratchy throats and runny noses.

Why We Count Pollen Levels

Knowing the amount of pollen in the air is helpful for those who suffer from hay fever, also called seasonal allergic rhinitis. There are 40 to 60 million people with hay fever in the U.S. alone.1 Having an accurate understanding of outdoor pollen levels can help these allergy sufferers avoid spending time outdoors on high-pollen days and proactively take antihistamines, decongestants and other allergy medicines before developing uncomfortable symptoms.

The Controversy Over Pollen Forecasts

If you are searching for pollen levels in your area, you’re likely checking an online resource for up-to-date information. You may be tempted to use Pollen.com, a website that seems to specialize in pollen reporting, or a weather website like The Weather Channel. These types of sites typically provide pollen forecasts for the next several days as well as recent pollen histories. Some even split the forecast up by type of pollen (ragweed, grass, tree, etc.) to appeal to people with specific allergies.

These forecasts sound like wonderful tools for allergy sufferers, but proceed with caution. These predictions may not be accurate.

Back in 2011, a study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) that called into question the accuracy of pollen forecasts on popular websites. When forecasts were compared with actual daily pollen counts reported by the AAAAI’s National Allergy Bureau™ (NAB), they were found to be inaccurate.2

These inaccuracies likely stem from the way pollen forecasts are created. Many forecasts are based on seasonal trends and current weather, such as wind and rainfall, which can both affect the amount of pollen in the air. In other words, these forecasts are estimates. While these sites’ predictions could be more accurate now than they were in 2011, the NAB still stands by its authority as the provider of “the most accurate and reliable pollen and mold levels.”3

Calculating Pollen Count

Instead of relying on pollen forecasts, you are better off trusting the NAB’s pollen count. A pollen count is different than a pollen forecast because it is a literal count of how many pollen grains have landed in a cubic meter of space over the course of 24 hours. This figure is determined by counting the number of pollen grains that have been trapped by a sticky spinning rod, which is usually located on a roof. A microscope is then used for accuracy counting the grains. While the NAB reports are slightly delayed so the AAAAI volunteers have time to count the pollen, it is more accurate to go by the previous day’s count than an estimated pollen forecast that relies on historical data and weather conditions.

As of now, there are 84 NAB pollen count centers throughout the country and a few abroad. The Georgia count centers are located in Marietta and Savannah.

Tips for Minimizing Your Home’s Pollen Levels

Unfortunately, there is no way to keep your home truly pollen-free, as most pollen grains are super small, like a speck of dust. This teeny-tiny size is what allows anemophilous plants to pollinate effectively, as the pollen is so lightweight it can float on wind currents. That means a gust of pollen grains can enter your home any time you open the door or window.

Luckily, there are still a few steps you can take to reduce the amount of pollen in your home to a tolerable level:

  • Keep the windows and doors shut
    Leaving them open just invites pollen into your home. If you just can’t get enough of the warm spring breeze, make sure you have high-quality screens.
  • Change into new clothes
    Pollen loves to hitch a ride on fabric and the soles of shoes. If you can, change out of your shoes and clothes in the garage, laundry room or entryway bathroom so pollen doesn’t contaminate your quarters.
  • Take frequent showers
    Any time you go outside, pollen grains are sticking to your hair and skin. A quick shower after arriving home will go a long way in preventing pollen buildup.
  • Wash your bedding
    Beds just love attracting dirt, dust and mites, don’t they? Pollen is no different. Run your bedding through the washing machine and dryer frequently during spring.
  • Vacuum everything often
    Don’t let pollen settle on your carpets or hardwood floors. A vacuum with a high-strength HEPA filter will keep your floor as allergen-free as possible.
  • Brush and bathe your pets
    If you have a pet that loves to play outdoors, they may be dragging in more pollen than you realize. Consider brushing, vacuuming and bathing them more often during pollen-heavy months.
  • Change out your filters
    This is crucial – the air in your home isn’t free of pollen unless you have a clean HEPA air filter installed in your HVAC system. Be sure to replace this filter once every month during high-pollen times.
  • Service your A/C unit
    Your A/C unit needs regular maintenance and service to ensure everything is working properly. A malfunction could reduce the air quality in your home.

Receive Air Conditioning Maintenance and Repair With Air Temperature Control

You may not have the power to change the season, but you can take steps to prevent allergens like pollen from invading your home this spring. At Air Temperature Control, our factory trained and NATE-certified team of technicians can provide routine A/C service, maintenance and air filter replacement to ensure your unit is running at peak efficiency.

Call us at (478) 784-1109 to schedule your appointment today.