Pollen from trees, grass causing allergy misery

Wind kicks up allergens, makes problem seem worse

Sneezing? Red, itchy, watery eyes? Feeling fatigued?

If this is you, no one needs to tell you it’s allergy season. High tree-pollen counts, thanks mostly to budding elm trees around the Grand Valley over the last several days, have many of the afflicted bemoaning the warm, breezy weather while reaching for tissues and taking medications.

As of Monday, tree-pollen counts had been reduced to a moderate level, according to the Mesa County Health Department.

Warmer temperatures that came in on the heels of a cool start to spring prompted a budding of local elm trees. Those seed pods were blown around during recent windy spells. Now poplar, cottonwood and aspens are responsible for the largest percentage of local tree pollen.

With grasses and weeds popping up, a combination of tree pollen and grasses is hitting some allergy sufferers with a double whammy of symptoms, said William Scott a medical doctor and an allergist with Grand Junction’s Allergy and Asthma Clinic.

“If you’re allergic to cats you can do something — you can put the cat outside,” Scott said.

“It’s not the same when you’re allergic to pollen.”

It would seem that because the Grand Valley generally enjoys warm, dry weather, allergens wouldn’t top out at high levels. However, like the area’s increasing number of days of inversions in the wintertime, pollen, too, can become trapped in the valley, Scott said.

Common tree-pollen allergens also stem from juniper, elm and cedar.

Counter-intuitively, the bigger the flowers are on trees and bushes, the less of an allergen problem they pose. Those kinds of plants more easily attract pollinators, while non-flowering plants rely on the mobility of pollen for reproduction.

“Orchards have no effect on your allergies unless you stick your face in a blossom,” said Michael Brygger, an air specialist with the Mesa County Health Department.

Brygger is tasked with testing the air to determine its pollen content. Two times a week, for 10 minutes an hour during two 24-hour periods, Brygger programs a pollen-collecting device called a rotometer, which spins two tiny, greased glass probes into the air. The machine is on the top of the health department’s building, off 29 1/2 Road.

Bygger then takes the samples and counts the numbers and types of pollen, the results of which he reports on the health department’s Web site.

According to historical data, the amount of tree pollen in the air this year is about average, he said.

Pollen counts can increase on the front end of a storm system, but those allergens tend to tamp down after a good rain.

That’s the kind of weather Deanne Adamson’s 10-year-old son, Max, probably wishes for.

Adamson had to pick up her boy from school Monday because staff there thought he had a fever, but Adamson suspects his allergies are acting up.

Adamson said a proven method for dealing with seasonal allergies is taking antihistamines early in the day, before symptoms arise.

“I just feel bad for him,” she said of her son. 


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