There’s something in the air
Those people coughing and sneezing this time of year may wonder if trees or grass are to blame, but it’s peak season for weed pollen, most likely the cause of their symptoms.
Doctors say that knowing what irritants people are being exposed to is crucial information needed to treat those who suffer from seasonal allergies.
“Trying to help people without that data is really just like flying blind,” explained Dr. David Scott, of the Allergy and Asthma Center of Western Colorado.
Pollen counts, which used to be collected by the Mesa County Health Department, have been unavailable in western Colorado for some time, he said.
The older pollen-counting instrument used by the Mesa County Health Department is out of service because of a part that failed earlier this year, said Melissa Salter, environmental health specialist for the department.
It was a service provided for many years to the general public to help them understand and track typical environmental allergens. The Health Department can no longer provide that service at this time, Salter said.
Scott and his staff have resolved the problem by purchasing and attaching their own pollen counter to the roof of their practice at 1120 Wellington Ave.
Since May, they have been studying and tracking the airborne irritants that affect not only their patients but the general public as well.
That information is now available to everyone on a new website, gjpollen.com.
“We really needed this information to take care of our patients, but it’s more of a public service” for everyone in the area, Scott said.
Scott believes it is the only pollen counter on the western side of the state.
The office invested $2,500 to purchase the counter, microscope and reference books. Scott said it took some time for him to brush up on his identification skills and collect enough data to launch the website.
He is in the process of registering for a national certification course in aerobiology through the Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. After completion, he must pass a test to become a certified pollen counter.
The pollen counter on the roof collects samples by spinning two greased rods for one minute out of every 10 minutes, Scott explained.
Particles of pollen, mold and other airborne particles stick to the rods. Scott examines the samples under a microscope, manually counting the different types of irritants he sees.
“We’ve really noticed a lot more mold is here than we’ve ever realized,” Scott said.
Based on the data he’s tracked so far, he believes alternaria mold could be the cause of many of his patients’ asthma and allergy symptoms.
Scott said that kind of specific information explains why a local pollen counter is more useful than relying on the national pollen count data to determine the cause of symptoms.
Other common samples found this time of year have included chenopod weed pollen and cladosporium mold.
The website is updated twice per week with easy-to-read ratings of grass, tree or weed pollen counts.
It also includes microscopic detail of different types of pollen and descriptions of the most common allergens found in the region.
A link to the web page can also be found on the Mesa County Health Department’s website.
“As far as Dr. Scott sharing this information, it is very kind of him. It shows that he really is doing it as a public service that is beneficial to the community,” Salter said.