Temperatures finally topped 70 degrees in Missoula this week, and like many sun-starved Montanans, I’ve looked for any excuse to head outside and soak up the rays.

Unfortunately, warm spring weather means more plants are growing and blooming, which in turn means there is more pollen in the air. Add in those gusty afternoon winds that we’ve been experiencing, and you have the perfect conditions for an allergy-sufferer’s worst nightmare.

When it comes to the severity of seasonal allergy symptoms, I probably fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. My symptoms aren’t enough to keep me inside, but I definitely notice a change once things start turning green. At first, I usually think I’m coming down with a cold. But when the sneezing fails to subside after several days, I know that it’s that time of year again.

Over the course of the next few months, my allergic reactions will ebb and flow depending on what’s in the air. If I’m feeling particularly stuffed up, I will check the pollen report on weather.com and try to identify what plant is causing the trouble. (Mostly out of curiosity, since there isn’t much I can do to stop it aside from popping a Claritin.)

Tree pollen gives me the most grief, but grass and weed pollen are also present in our area at certain times of the season.

Ever wonder what, exactly, is causing that itch in your nose? The University of Montana’s Center for Environmental Health Sciences operates the only pollen count station in the entire state of Montana. The center provides up-to-date pollen information on its web page and reports its findings to organizations such as the National Allergy Bureau, weather.com, KPAX and local allergists.

Thankfully, most allergy symptoms can easily be treated with over-the-counter medications such as Claritin, Zyrtec and Benadryl.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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