Pollen produces a golden glow and allergic reactions

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 17, 2006

With my bruised ribs healing and spring racing toward us, I announced the other day that it was about time to wash the windows.

At our house, washing the windows is an arduous task involving a pressure washer, an extension pole tipped first with a scrub brush and then a squeegee and buckets of suds. It always turns out to be a very wet task. Consequently, it is not done very often.

“Are you sure you want to do the windows before the pollen season?” my wife asked.

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Ah, the pollen season. It’s the season we don’t wax lyrical about. It is not fixed by the position of the earth, but it is every bit as dependable as the seasons that are.

I guess I blot it from my memory every year, but once she had reminded me, I agreed that doing any kind of outdoor scrubbing is pretty much wasted effort until the pollen passes.

We are not talking about just any pollen, of course. We are talking about pine pollen.

Within a day or so of my wife’s reminder, we noticed a light dusting of gold on the hood of the car.

The next day there was a little more. I expect a lot more. It is not the kind of gold that you want to keep.

It floats on the surface of the lake.

It clings to the screens and to the glass panes in the windows. It covers the deck and the driveway.

No matter what color your automobile is, it sports a golden tinge.

If you try to rinse the pollen away, you have to make certain it is really gone, or golden streaks emerge when the water dries.

The pollen finds its way to the insides of the car, the parts that you don’t see unless the door is open.

Once the pollen season has passed, the cars will get washed, but because it is out of sight, the pollen tends to stay inside the doors for the entire summer or longer, until it has mixed with oil and grease to leave a really grimy residue.

You can wash the windshield in the morning, and by the time you are ready to leave the office in the evening, the windshield is covered again.

As annoying as all that is, the experts say, it isn’t the pine pollen that’s responsible for the coughing and sneezing and runny noses that come at this time of year. Because it is so heavy, they say, pine pollen tends to fall straight down and doesn’t scatter easily in the wind.

Not much of it actually reaches our noses – it just reaches everything else.

The real trouble, they say, comes from other plants that are blooming at the same time. Some trees, among them oaks, hickories and pecans contribute pollen that induces allergies. The biggest offenders, though, are weeds, especially ragweed. The pollen these plants and trees produce is small, light and easily transported by the wind.

It is almost impossible to get away from it.

I’ve read that ragweed pollen has been collected as far as 400 miles at sea and two miles in the air. In addition, the pollen that causes the worst allergies comes from plants that produce it in huge quantities. A single ragweed plant can generate a million grains of pollen a day.

But it is the pine pollen that we see. The window washing will wait until I can’t see it anymore.

I guess that’s a pretty small price to pay for living where we do.

-Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville AL 36853 or by e-mail at williambrown1@charter.net