Pollen: Extreme times

We were rather astounded to find this morning that nature had painted our car a bright green.

Thus we were not surprised when we saw today's tree-pollen counts. They were off the charts. If you have tree-pollen allergies, this has not been the best of times. You could well be sneezing your head off.

The Asthma Center count today came in at 2772.9. To put that in perpsective, the "extreme" level is 1,000, and the counts have been above that threshold each reporting day in the last two weeks.

The emission of pollen, of course, is part of an annual tree reproductive frenzy. The trees got off to such an early start this seasons that Dr. Donald Dvorin, the region's official counter, start posting his counts about 10 days early.

Along with the precocity, the soft, summery breezes evidently have put the trees in a particularly amorous mood.

Today's culprits were oak, mulberry and walnut trees, according to the Asthma Center.

The pollen count is a measure of how many pollen grains have passed through a parcel of air about the size of a refrigerator in the previous 24 hours.

The National Allergy Bureau has 85 stations across the country, including Dvorin's, all operated by volunteers.

Dvorin measures pollen on workday mornings from the roof of his office at Broad and Race Streets.

The grains aree tiny. Even the bigger ones measure a mere 50 microns, or 0.002 inches.

As small as they are, even tinier fragments of those grains can torture the allergic, and the sneeze is fighting an attacker.