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  1. HF Test1038.16:06:43.1809796
Updated 4/12/2010 11:39 AM ET
Near-record pollen adds misery to season
ATLANTA — Some of the same regions of the country that experienced unusually cold temperatures this past winter are now in the middle of one of the worst pollen seasons in several years.

The problem has been particularly bad in the Southeast, where allergy sufferers and clean-car lovers are dealing with a constant yellow blanket of near-record pollen. In normal seasons, a pollen count of 120 is considered high. Last week in Atlanta, the pollen count hit 5,733, the second-highest level on record, according to The Weather Channel. (The city's record, 6,013, was set April 12, 1999.)

POLLEN TRACKER: Track your local allergy forecast

"We're seeing a lot of patients who are allergic to tree pollen," says Stanley Fineman, an allergist at the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic. The number of patients coming in is "much higher than usual," he says.

The record-cold temperatures in places such as Georgia and Florida delayed the pollination process for oak trees this year, which means the peak pollen season is likely to last until early next month.

That's not welcome news for Erin Moloney, 23, of Tampa, a life-long allergy sufferer. She says this year is worse than usual. "The symptoms are a little more severe, more noticeable, and there are new symptoms." Her symptoms include itchy, runny nose and eyes, a lot of sneezing, hives and, for the first time this year, wheezing.

At least 20% of the nation's population is affected by pollen, and about 5% have a strong enough reaction that they have to see a specialist, says Richard Lockey, director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the University of South Florida.

"This is the season when you see people staying home from work for a week because their eyes are so swollen," Lockey says. "People say, 'Aw it can't be that bad.' Well, it's like having a bad cold for two, three months. The quality of life for those people, particularly the severely affected, is very, very poor at this point."

Elsewhere:

• Some parts of Arkansas are seeing the highest tree-pollen counts in at least a decade, says Blake Scheer, an allergy and immunology specialist at the Little Rock Allergy and Asthma Clinical Research Center.

"The weather plays such a huge role in it," he says.

• In Raleigh, N.C., the pollen count hit 3,524 last week, the highest reading since at least 2003, according to the state Division of Air Quality.

Posted 4/11/2010 11:13 PM ET
Updated 4/12/2010 11:39 AM ET
Shane Nantz kicks up a cloud as he mows his yard in Charlotte last week. Pollen counts are especially high in the Southeast this year. Shane Nantz kicks up a cloud as he mows his yard in Charlotte last week. Pollen counts are especially high in the Southeast this year.

By Todd Sumlin, The Charlotte Observer via AP