Folks who suffer from allergies can thank the cold weather for a longer than usual reprieve from pollen season.
But that will change this week.
"It's been cold for so long that the plants are just now starting to wake up," said Milledge Peterson, the owner of Bedford Greenhouses on Oleander Road.
Trees usually slow growth during winter, but an extended cold spell has kept them dormant longer than usual. Longer daylight hours and warm temperatures, however, have the sap flowing again, Peterson said.
Peterson has noticed heavy yellow pine pollen making its first spring appearances and expects pollen season to kick into high gear this week. Trees usually herald the allergy season, followed by the finer grass pollens. The grass pollens irritate more people because they're more easily inhaled, Peterson said.
About 25 percent to 35 percent of the population has some kind of allergic reaction, said Dr. Stanley Fineman, an allergist with the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic.
The severity of the season is gauged by counting the number of pollen molecules in a cubic meter of air, called the pollen count. Augusta's daily pollen count can be found on weather.com.
Fineman suggests that folks with hay fever stay indoors on days with high pollen counts.
Pam Knox, the assistant state climatologist, said that in spite of the delayed allergy season, the effects are already being felt.
"Even my cat is sneezing," Knox said. "I don't have bad allergies, but I think this time of year everybody ... feels some effects."
Morris News Service contributed to this story.