By the numbers

10.4 Pollen count as of Tuesday (out of 12). Causes are oak, birch, juniper.

10.7 Forecast for today.

10.9 Forecast for Friday.

(Thursday is 10.4; Saturday, 9.7)

30 Charleston's overall spring ranking for pollen among U.S. cities so far this year. That's considered average.

32 Charleston's ranking last year.

14 Columbia's ranking (34 last year). That's considered worse than average.

1 Louisville, Ky., the worst city for pollen so far this year.

For S.C. DHEC ozone alerts: scdhec.gov/ozone.

Source: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

The "worst pollen season ever" has arrived - just like last year.

That's how Maria Streck describes it. She's just kidding, but she knows. Not only is she an MUSC allergy doctor, her husband, Chris, suffers badly from allergies. Every year he tells her it's a bad one. This year has been no exception.

When the green and yellow powder starts coating the car, it's wheezin' time. The Charleston area is hovering near a 10 on a pollen meter, out of a potential 12. That's about as bad as it gets around here. But it gets that way nearly every year.

This pollen season might seem a little worse this go-round because a cold, rainy winter delayed the first bursts of pollen, and it might be that different types of pollen will release closer to each other throughout the season into May, Streck said.

The best thing to do is wash - get it off your hands to keep from rubbing it into your face, she said. Shower after going outdoors. It's important to start allergy medicine before the peak season hits, but, oops, too late this year. Remember it for next year.

Almost adding insult to injury, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has begun issuing its ozone alerts for the summer, as it does April 1 each year. Ozone respiratory woes can worsen allergy woes, and Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties were the only ones in the state Tuesday with yellow, or "moderate ozone" alerts.

But despite heavy traffic and other pollution sources, the two monitors in Charleston largely report declines in ozone over the past decade, according to DHEC.

The Charleston environs are ranked 30th among worst pollen cities across the country, only a sniff of improvement from last year's 32, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Streck's clinic is slammed, like other allergy centers in the Lowcountry. Former patients are calling to get back on medications, she said.

The National Allergy & Asthma center in North Charleston has been busy, too. The center, which collects and reports pollen counts, has been seeing tree, weed and even grass pollen, said allergy physician Thomas Murphy.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.