Oak pollen counts predicted to be higher than normal in Florida

If you're allergic to oak trees, get ready. 

As our weather warms up, oak pollen will blanket our area and this season could be particularly rough.

"Tree pollens are a huge problem here in Florida," says Dr. Richard Lockey, chairman of the Allergy and Immunology Department at the University of South Florida. "When it goes this year it will go very quickly and very high because we've had such cold weather the last couple of weeks."

Typically, different oak trees begin pollinating at different times but our frigid temps reset the clock.  The delay will cause many oaks to start pollinating all at once.   

Lockey has been tracking pollen in the area for decades, "We have 11 different species of oak trees in this area and this pollens blow for miles and miles and miles so it's not so important what's in the back lawn, it's what’s in the area."

A device located on the roof of the USF Morsani Medical School collects pollen on a slide. Using a microscope, USF faculty identify and count particles, and send the information to a national database.

Lockey says pollen counts here get "tremendously" high, up to 6,000 pollen particles per cubic meter, "…and they break apart so the dust also gets inhaled and that causes an epidemic of allergic problems."

Problems Lockey says, can make you miserable, "Your nose is always running, you're sneezing, your eyes are watering, you're wheezing, your coughing, it's very, very uncomfortable."

Whether you get over the counter relief or need prescription drugs and inhalers this is a good time to stock up.

"Now is the time to start your medications, now's the time to get on them, start them, and take them until the end of March into April," Lockey says.