Right now, grass is the main culprit.

Erik Pindrock, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, said the grass pollen count for today, Wednesday and Thursday will be in the "very high" category.

"If you have any allergies toward grass, they're probably going to be acting up," Pindrock said.

The yardstick AccuWeather uses to measures the severity of pollen is a numerical scale from 0 to 200, with counts between 20 and 199 being high and those 200 and above being very high. The scale ranks the amount of pollen contained in one cubic meter of air.

"It's going to be a pretty tough few days coming up with the high count," said Pindrock, adding that dry weather exacerbates the pollen problem.

"If you go through long stretches of dry weather the pollen will linger in trees, grass and in weeds and things like that," he said. "There's nothing to wash it away."

According to the Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Foundation of Northern California, grass pollen grains are big and very allergenic, and usually cause very strong allergic reactions in skin tests.

The symptoms for pollen-related allergies are sneezing, cough, sore throat and itchy, burning eyes, said Dr. Marisha Chilcott, family physician with Annadel Medical Group. The symptoms are similar to those of a cold but they can go on for weeks without getting any better, she said.

Chilcott, who has been a family doctor in Santa Rosa for seven years, said she's seeing a worse-than-usual allergy season this year.

"I'm seeing patients who think they have a cold that won't go away because they've never had allergies before," she said.

Chilcott said that when that when a body's immune system is exposed to the antigens, such as those induced by pollen, the body mounts a "bigger and bigger immune response" with every exposure making the body more sensitive.

"That's why when when you're chronically exposed, you can switch from someone who doesn't react to someone who has a reaction," she said. "I'm seeing more patients who have never been allergic before, and patients who have allergies and having a harder time controlling allergies than ever before."

Chilcott said allergy-prone residents should wash their hands, irrigate their sinuses and possibly see their doctor for prescription for nasal steroid. She said that if you use a nasal steroid spray, "it works ten times better, if you bend forward for 20 to 30 seconds after using it, because the medicine builds up in sinuses and eyes."

Though there's no immediate forecast for it, rain or any other moisture would help.

Pindrock, the AccuWeather meteorologist, said high humidity or even a cool night with a little bit of dew would help.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.