Pollen: Sneezin' opener

We received our first pollen count of the season this morning from Dr. Donald Dvorin at the Asthma Center.

It's not that the numbers were off the charts in terms of volume -- they weighed in at the "moderate" level -- it's just that they were off-the-charts early.

The first count was about 10 days ahead of schedule. As we wrote in our story, Dvorin fast-forwarded the counting season because his office was stuffed with stuffy noses in February.

Tony Aiello, horticulturalist at the Morris Arboretum, said last week that the trees appeared to be as much as 2 1/2 weeks ahead of their normal timetables.

Their busy early-season schedule includes the release of pollen, sent forth to sow the seeds of a new generation.

Those tiny pollen grains can be a source of torment to the allergenic, and the count is a window into just how seriously the trees are taking their annual reproductive duties.

The count represents the total numbers of grains that have passed through a refrigerator-sized parcel of air in the previous 24 hours.

Dvorion uses a rooftop trap, stationed at Broad and Race Streets. The grains are sucked through a coin-size slit and then become attached to a slide lathered with an adhesiver.

Before he sees patients in the morning, he retrieves the slide, places it under a microscope, projects the image, and does his counting.

This morning, by they way, he came up with 16.9.

We look for tree pollen to have a blast on Wednesday and Thursday, as it warms into the 60s, and stiff breeze kicks up. Keep the tissues handy.