"What is Pollen Count?" and Other Frequently Asked Questions

Feb. 22, 2022  Rebecca Rosenberger MMSc, PA-C 

Rebecca Rosenberger is the Associate Director of U.S. Clinical Affairs & Education in the Immunodiagnostics Division at Thermo Fisher Scientific and a physician assistant specializing in allergy & immunology.

Spring allergy season might be the most hated time of year if you are part of the 8 percent of adults in the United States who suffer from pollen allergies and the sneezing, watery eyes, and endless amount of tissues that likely go along with it.1 If you’re among that segment of the population, you may think all hope is lost and you just have to power through “pollen-palooza.” After all, you can’t stop grasses, trees, and weeds from pollinating.

But knowing how much pollen is in the air at any given time means you can make informed decisions about your daily activities to better avoid triggers. If pollen count is high on a Monday morning, for example, you can wait until the evening to get in your daily run.

You might be thinking, “OK that’s good to know, but how does one track pollen?” Glad you asked. With pollen season right around the corner, it’s time to prep for the impending doom—er, bloom. Here are answers to four frequently asked pollen-count questions.

A pollen count tells us how much pollen is in the air at a certain time. Pollen counts are generally taken with an air-sampling device, such as a rotorod. The device uses sticky rods that test the air on a regular basis. Every 24 hours or so, these rods are then examined for the number of pollen grains covering the rod. The count is converted into units of grains per cubic meter of air. Fortunately, these measurements are eventually calculated into an amount that makes sense to the general public: low, moderate, and high. 

There are a few tools that provide timely information that allows you to consistently monitor pollen levels, so you can ultimately better manage your symptoms. One of them is pollen.com, which provides daily allergy forecasts that show the upcoming airborne allergen conditions in your local environment.3 Simply visit the website and enter your zipcode to get a clear picture of the allergy and pollen forecast in your area. 

Pollen levels vary depending on the location and season, and they're directly connected to weather conditions. Warm, dry, and windy conditions have high pollen levels, while rainy and/or cool weather dramatically drops pollen levels. The spring season is typically when pollen levels are highest, as grasses and trees are in full force. Pollen.com reports that counts are the highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. It is important to note that many plants pollinate year-round, so checking pollen counts everyday throughout the year is recommended. 

Pollen levels reported on pollen.com fall on a 0-12 scale, zero being the lowest and 12 being the highest.3

• 0-2.4: low pollen level

• 2.5-4.8: low-medium range

• 4.9-7.2: medium pollen level

• 7.3-9.6: medium-high

• 9.7-12: high 

So what now?

While there’s nothing you can really do to prevent every microscopic speck of pollen from entering your personal space, checking pollen counts daily and knowing what to do with that information can help mitigate symptoms—and potentially reduce your tissue budget. Learn more about pollen allergies.

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  1. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/allergy_and_asthma/allergy_and_asthma_statistics_85,P00037.
  2. https://www.acsh.org/news/2016/04/01/how-do-we-count-pollen-anyway.
  3. https://www.pollen.com/help/about.