Pollen Collecting and Reporting

Let’s Talk Pollen, Pollen, Pollen Not Just Virus, Virus, Virus!

I know it’s hard to believe, but there are actually people who are so miserable with seasonal allergies, that they momentarily forget about the corona virus.  Of course, they are immediately reminded about the virus as soon as they turn on their radio or TV, or log onto the internet.

We have gotten several questions recently about how we come up with the pollen report that originates here at Intermountain Allergy & Asthma of Draper, so I thought that I would give a brief overview of what’s involved in the daily pollen count.

Collecting the Pollen

Our pollen collecting device sits on the roof of our one-story building here in Draper.  It is a ‘Rotorod’ – which is an appropriate name since it spins a little translucent rod in a circle (at 2400 RPM).  The rod is coated on one side with a thin layer of silicone grease, and when pollen grains (and mold and insects and dust) hit this grease they stick to it.  Each morning we bring in the previous day’s rod and put out a new one.  We then apply a stain to the rod which colors the pollen differently than the other ‘gunk’ on the rod, and we can identify and count the various pollen grains.

Counting the Pollen

There are two certified pollen counters in our office (certified by the National Allergy Bureau) who take turns counting.  We keep track of the numbers of various pollen species as best as we can – but sometimes identifying the precise pollen species is impossible.  Pollen species are identified by size, shape, color (how much the stain affects them), and other various characteristics such as pores, and bumps, and ridges.  Sometimes it’s super easy to tell the exact type of plant a grain of pollen came from, and sometimes not so much.

Imagine that you are counting the different kinds of cars in a used car lot.  One group you can look at from above and easily see they are Toyotas, not Fords.  The next group is all upside down and you can only see them from the bottom.  They have four wheels, so you know they aren’t motorcycles, but other than that, it’s a guess.

Most of the pollen we see is easy to identify, but every pollen counter has several completely ‘unknown’ pollen grains each day.  Sometimes we make educated guesses about pollen types, and hope that we are correct.

Reporting the Daily Pollen Count

We report the pollen count 4 days each week – Monday through Thursday – from roughly early March thru late October.  We put it on our website, Facebook page, and send it out to some news outlets as well.  Remember that the pollen is collected one day, then counted and reported the next.  The pollen report is unavoidably a day behind.  If you are miserable on Monday, check the Tuesday report to see which pollen species to curse at!

The pollen levels (and mold) are reported as low, medium, high, or very high. We feel that this is much more useful to allergy sufferers than listing the actual number of pollen grains counted.  For example, a daily count of 50 grass pollen grains would be listed as ‘very high’, but 50 would be ‘moderate’ for a tree species, and ‘low’ for mold.  Also, the low, moderate, high and very high values are relative to Utah and might be different in other parts of the country.  Our ‘very high’ mold values would probably be low or moderate in Florida or Louisiana.  In fact, I believe that New Orleans residents would openly laugh at our puny mold spore counts!

If you are among those who wish that we had a national shortage of pollen instead of bathroom tissue, come see us – we can help with your symptoms!  Give us a call at 801-553-1900 to schedule an appointment.

Duane Harris, M.D.
Intermountain Allergy & Asthma of Draper
12422 South 450 East Suite C
Draper UT   84020

What Has Happened With the 2019 Pollen Season? (Originally written May 15, 2019)

Shakespeare reportedly said, “All the world’s a stage”.  With that in mind, by now it should be Act Two of the 2019 Pollen Play, but it seems that some of the ‘actors’ have missed their cues.   May is over and usually by this time; the trees would usually be almost done with their allotted time on the pollen ‘stage’, and should be taking a graceful bow.  Grass would typically be in full ‘bloom’ and people would be starting to feel miserable.  This year, however, the winter scenery is still on-stage. (OK enough of the theatrical motif!)

What is happening with Utah’s pollen season?

Utah’s pollen season started out normally with Elm pollen in early March, but with the colder than normal temperatures for much of the spring, several of Utah’s tree pollens have been lower than expected.

Usually, Juniper pollen (comes from Juniper trees – but commonly called ‘Cedar’) is the worst tree pollen we deal with in Utah.  This year, it was much lower than usual, so overall, the early spring pollen season has been less than awful for many.

How will grass pollen be affected this year?

Utah’s grass pollen usually starts to show up in early May, and in a typical year would be high by now.  However, the temperature can affect grass pollination significantly, and we have only seen a few days with high grass pollen this spring.

If the rain ever stops, and the temperatures rise into the low 80’s, we could see intense, dramatic grass pollination.  The last cooler, wetter-than-usual, spring in Utah, was several years ago.  That year, Utah’s grass pollination started in June and persisted well into the last half of July.  We may see the same thing again.

What other Utah pollens should I watch for?

Late summer and fall in Utah is the time for weed pollination.  This generally begins in late July or early August, and peaks about mid-September.  The past few years, we have seen milder fall pollen levels, possibly due to higher than average temps and little rain.  If the cool, wet weather persists into the late summer again, we could see dramatic (for Utah) pollens.  In Utah, our fall pollen season is relatively mild compared to other parts of the country.

In the Intermountain areas, Sagebrush and Russian Thistle usually lead the pack in the fall.  However, in the Midwest, Ragweed is king!  We have significantly less ragweed here, than most places east of the Mississippi, and for that we are grateful!

How can I find out what Utah’s pollen count is?

At Intermountain Allergy and Asthma, we publish Utah pollen count information. Please follow the pollen count by checking our website:  Intermountainallergy.com.  We count the pollen four days a week, Monday through Thursday.  Remember that the pollen count is always delayed 24 hours.  It is collected for a 24-hour period, and then counted and reported the next morning.

If your allergies are milder than usual this year – good for you!  If they get worse (there’s a good chance of that) remember that many allergy medicines work best if used daily.  If you want to get ahead of the pollen allergies that are coming in the next few months or are absolutely miserable, make an appointment with Intermountain Allergy and Asthma and find out what can be done.

Duane J. Harris, MD
Intermountain Allergy & Asthma of Draper

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 and Dr. Anderson accept new asthma patients of all ages and most insurance plans.  If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact us Intermountain Allergy and Asthma at (801) 553-1900 (Dr. Harris) or (801) 476-0052 (Dr. Anderson) and we will be happy to assist you.

If you don’t have health insurance, we offer a discount and monthly payment options. It is Dr. Harris’ and Anderson’s goal to provide the best medical treatment for their patients while working with patients to keep costs and payments reasonable.

Thank you for allowing us Intermountain Allergy and Asthma to be part of your health care team – we look forward to seeing you!

Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis: Pollen Allergies in the Eyes

We are fast approaching the most common time of the year for allergic problems in the eyes.  Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (SAR) can occur anytime there is pollen in the air, however, for many allergy sufferers, grass pollen is more likely to cause bothersome eye symptoms than other types of pollen.  Most of the common grasses in northern and central Utah start to pollinate in late spring — when the daytime temps are in the 70’s or low 80’s.  It’s right around the corner!

What are symptoms of Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (SAR)?

Symptoms of SAR include redness, tearing, and itching in both eyes, and coincide with nasal symptoms in most patients.  A number of allergy medications can (and do) help with the eyes:  antihistamines can help to some degree, as do the daily nasal sprays.  For those really bad eye days though, you’ll need eye drops in addition.   It’s OK to use antihistamines, nasal sprays, and eye drops at the same time – they won’t interfere with each other or cause unexpected side effects when used together.

If your eyes are itching somewhat, but burning, ‘grittiness’, pain, or redness are the main problems, you may have something else going on in addition to simple eye allergies.  Itching is generally the thing that patients with eye allergies complain about the most—and of course it’s often the hardest thing to control.  Rubbing an allergic eye will almost always make the itching worse – (but OH it’s tough not to rub and scratch!)  For children especially, it is just not realistic to think that they can resist the urge to rub their eyes.

How can I treat symptoms of Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (SAR)?

There are a number of good over the counter (OTC) eye drops available, that will work for mild or moderate allergy symptoms.  However, be aware that some of the OTC drops are meant to be used sparingly, and can actually cause more problems in the eyes if used daily for extended periods of time.  Also, most OTC drops burn or sting for a few minutes after being used, and are not very kid friendly.  If you think that you or family members may need eye drops for much of this pollen allergy season, get in to see an Intermountain Allergy and Asthma allergist now and ask for prescription drops that can be used long term, and will be easier to use in children.

There are some types of allergic eye disease that can be quite severe, and if not treated appropriately can even affect vision long term.  If your eye symptoms are not adequately controlled with OTC meds, or if your prescription meds are not enough, make sure you let your doctor know!

Finally for those patients with significant nasal and eye allergies, and for whom medications are not enough:  allergy ‘desensitization’ shots can be very helpful with eye allergies, regardless of the type of pollen causing the problem.  Talk with an Intermountain Allergy and Asthma allergist and see if this may be a good form of treatment for you.

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 follow our web page “Intermountainallergy.com” or Facebook page “Intermountain Allergy and Asthma – Draper, UT”, for the daily pollen count.  My prediction is that we will see grass really start to climb in the next two weeks, and tree pollen will start to decline.

Thank you for allowing Intermountain Allergy and Asthma to be part of your health care team – we look forward to seeing you!