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Counting pollen for spring allergies in the Triad

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- On a sun-filled first day of spring, Bailey Park in downtown Winston-Salem is the place to be.

"I had to take some time from my studies inside and get outside and enjoy the sunshine," Emily Masterson said.

Because of pollen, spring can be a tough time to be outside. That's why people sensitive to pollen depend on the pollen count.

At the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection, Rob Russ is working to get that critical pollen count.

A device captures the pollen that's floating in the air from 3 a.m. to 2 p.m. Russ then collects the pollen and counts each grain he sees under a microscope. As you can imagine, counting pollen can be a time consuming process.

"It's tough on a day when you are counting 500 grains of pollen. Not so tough when you have 80, 90,100 something like that," Russ said.

This year, the Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection began counting pollen in February. This is the earliest time Russ can remember counting pollen.

Because of our warm winter, the pollen count has been high. But our recent cool spell has put a big dent in the pollen count.

But when spring temperatures return, Russ knows a lot of time will be used counting pollen. But sometimes the time passes quickly when you are looking at the wonder of Mother Nature.

"They do have very interesting shapes, pores, ridges, air bladders like in pine pollen, very beautiful," Russ said.