Oak, sweetgum, grass or sycamore ó take your pick. Flowers from any one of them could be causing that rasp and sneezing.

Pollen counts in the Charleston metro area spiked dangerously last week to near record levels, and were knocked down only by the rain over the weekend, said John Ramey of the National Allergy, Asthma and Urticaria Center in North Charleston, which does local counts.

The counts now are on their way back up. Whatís worse, a somewhat early arrival of the high pollen counts likely makes for a longer allergy season, Ramey said.

The centerís count hit a 10 on a scale of 10 on March 14 and the next day. After the rains, the count fell to a 2 on Monday.

By Tuesday, though, it was back to 7.

The high counts reflect a trend occurring across the Southeast with the early spring. Pollen in Atlanta on Tuesday broke a record set Monday, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Across a span of Eastern states from southern Indiana to Florida, only three relatively small regions are not reporting counts at the highest level, according to an online site tracked by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bopete.