RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Allergy sufferers can already attest to what government officials now confirm -- North Carolina's pollen season is an itchy, watery nuisance.

The state Division of Air Quality said the pollen count of 3,524 grains per cubic meter at its Raleigh central office on Wednesday was the highest reading since at least 2003. Forsyth County's reading of 9,632 grains on Tuesday was the highest level since the county began recording pollen counts in 1997.

Pollen in central North Carolina -- mostly from pines and oaks -- usually peaks this time of year but generally doesn't exceed 1,500 grains. State officials say above-normal temperatures following a cold winter and cool early spring combined with recent dry weather are to blame.

Rain forecast for late this week could provide relief.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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