Utah’s 2020 Pollen Season is Here

It’s official!  The 2020 pollen season is here!

Each year, the certified pollen counters at Intermountain Allergy and Asthma of Draper collect, count, and report the pollen.

The first spring pollens generally show up in late February, or early March, but the timing varies from year-to-year.  Starting in mid-February, we start “looking” for pollen, and then begin the reporting process once we see significant pollen amounts.

Early March 2020 Pollen Count Findings

On March 3 of this year we found very high numbers of Elm pollen, with low numbers of Cedar, Cottonwood, and Maple/Boxelder (it’s hard to tell Maple and Boxelder apart).  Elm is almost always the first pollen seen in large amounts and typically starts with a bang – which is exactly what happened this year.

What Tree Pollen is the Worst for Allergies?

The most bothersome tree pollen for most people with early spring allergies is not Elm, but Cedar.  In Utah, “Cedar” tree pollen is actually from one of the Juniper tree species. The Juniper trees have traditionally been referred to as “Cedar” trees, and the nickname stuck.  Trees closely related to Junipers are found in all of the dry Intermountain area states.  Large amounts of Cedar/Juniper tree pollen are typically seen in late March through April but may occasionally show up earlier for a day or two if we have had strong winds from the south.

When Do Grass Pollens and Grass Pollen Allergies Start?

As the tree pollen starts to dwindle in May each year, grass will begin pollinating, and the number of people with significant allergy symptoms goes way up.  Grass in this area causes more allergy misery than any other type of pollen.  Grass a very potent trigger for symptoms and it’s everywhere! There is literally nowhere you can go, south of the Arctic Circle, to escape grass pollen.

What Can I Do to Prepare for Utah’s Allergy Season?

As the weather warms, treatment shifts from colds and influenza-type symptoms, with accompanying flares of asthma, to treating nose allergies and eye allergies.  Viruses and pollens can produce a somewhat similar sneezy-stuffy- yucky feeling, but with very different causes. 

This is the time to make sure you have a supply of your allergy medications on hand.  If you use nasal steroids for allergies, start them today!  If you have had terrible allergy symptoms, even while on over-the-counter medications in past years, now is the time to make an appointment with Dr. Harris and make a plan to alleviate allergy symptoms.

Please call (801) 553-1900 for an appointment before the peak of the allergy season.  New patient and check-up appointments are currently available within 24 – 48 hours, but it’s anticipated that waiting time will increase as the pollen count goes up!

New to Intermountain Allergy and Asthma?

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, now is a great time to consider starting professional treatment.  Dr. Harris accepts new patients of all ages and accepts most insurance plans.  If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact us Intermountain Allergy and Asthma at (801) 553-1900 and we will be happy to assist you.

If you don’t have health insurance, we offer no interest monthly payment options. It is Dr. Harris’ goal to provide the best medical treatment while working with patients to keep costs and payments reasonable.

Thank you for allowing Dr. Harris and his staff at Intermountain Allergy and Asthma of Draper to be part of your health care team – we look forward to seeing you!

Where there’s Smoke, There’s Asthma

I wanted to make some observations and suggestions about the smoke that has been such a big problem this summer.

We always expect to see quite a few patients with asthma or bronchitis worsened by the winter inversions that we get each year – but we don’t typically see many people with smoke-related worsening.  This year has definitely been different!  We have been treating patients who are short-of breath, coughing, and wheezing this summer (many more than normal) – almost certainly due to the smoke.

Smoke acts primarily as an irritant in worsening breathing and can also bother the throat, the nose, and the eyes.  In general, asthma that is worse because of an irritant can be harder to treat, and may respond less well to medications, than asthma that is worse because of an allergy — i.e. being around a cat you’re allergic to.  That is what we have seen this summer – people getting less than expected results from their medications.  Several patients who were taking their medications faithfully noticed increased symptoms and have needed to increase the dose of their daily inhalers, while others have needed a few days of oral steroids to get things under control.  It feels like we have had the awful winter inversions with us all summer.

Hopefully, the smoke from local fires will be gone soon.  If not, what to do?

Smoke Avoidance Tip 1: Avoid the smoke as much as possible.  Keep doors and windows closed 24/7.  Exercise inside, not outdoors if you can, or wait for relatively ‘clean’ air days to work-out outside.  Postpone yard work until the air is a bit better if you can.

Smoke Avoidance Tip 2: If you are taking asthma meds, make sure you are taking them regularly as directed.  Many adults can stop their asthma inhalers during the summer months – maybe not this year?  If you are taking your meds appropriately, but still having problems, you may need to increase the dose, or change medications entirely.  Some may need oral steroids to get things under control initially.  If you are struggling, but don’t use any asthma meds, it is time to see your doctor.

Smoke Avoidance Tip 3:  Remember that coughing may be due to chest irritation, or due to post-nasal drainage from an irritated nose or throat (or both).  In addition to asthma meds, you may benefit from regular nasal sprays, throat lozenges, and even gargling with saline.

Smoke Avoidance Tip 4: You may do better if you wear a face mask while outside.  I say ‘may do better’ because it makes a big difference what type of mask you use.  A cheap, poorly fitting mask may do little, while a more expensive, correctly fitted mask could help a lot.  See this recent (brief) report on face masks and air pollution.

Smoke Avoidance Tip 5: This may the right time to talk to the financial advisor and see if there is money for a small cottage in the Alps?  Or Hawaii?  Anywhere that the air quality is better!

Smoke Avoidance Tip 6: Pray for rain! 

Good luck dealing with our air quality.  Keep in mind that although smoke from local fires has diminished, it still may occur this fall and will most certainly be present next year. Please let us know if we can help.

Duane J. Harris M.D.
Intermountain Allergy and Asthma of Draper

New to Intermountain Allergy and Asthma?

If you suffer from allergies and have never seen an allergist, now is a great time to consider starting professional allergy treatment.  Dr. Harris and Dr. Anderson accept new allergy patients of all ages and most insurance plans.  If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact Intermountain Allergy and Asthma at (801) 553-1900 (Dr. Harris) or (801) 476-0052 (Dr. Anderson) and we will be happy to assist you.

Please bookmark our web page “Intermountainallergy.com” or follow our Facebook page “Intermountain Allergy and Asthma – Draper, UT” to keep up on the tips about allergies and asthma.