Two allergists staying alert in unusually moist season

Two allergists staying alert in unusually moist season

Dr. David Scott, who specializes in treating allergies and asthma at the Allergy & Asthma Center of Western Colorado, stands next to a kochia weed measuring roughly nine feet tall. A wet summer has encouraged a large crop of weeds in the valley, and health officials are expecting higher than normal levels of weed pollen to peak this month.

When he sees monstrous, 10-foot-tall weeds the size of Christmas trees growing on the side of the road, Dr. David Scott knows his practice is going to be busy.

Scott and his father, Dr. William Scott, are the only board-certified allergy and asthma specialists who practice in Mesa County, and they’re seeing some interesting trends this year with the wetter-than-normal weather the valley has received.

For the physicians, their practice doesn’t end with patients coming in for refills on inhalers or allergy shots at the Allergy & Asthma Center of Western Colorado. Their observations of local flora and weather patterns contribute to the advice they give their patients. And so far, the observations indicate it’s going to be a rough season for anyone allergic to weed pollen.

That’s why the doctors started a new pollen report on their website,, to analyze information from a variety of sources to inform patients and the general public.

“We look at a combination of data,” Scott said. “The historical averages, the weather forecasts, plant life around town and our clinical observations.”

Pollen counts conducted by the Mesa County Health Department are one piece of that information.

The health department collects pollen weekly, according to Thomas Orr, epidemiologist. The report posted to the county’s website ( on Sunday was collected a week earlier, on July 26. “Typically it’s the same week it’s collected,” said Orr, who said the wet weather has made collecting samples problematic in some cases. “Collections might be down with all the rain we’ve had because that tends to knock a lot of pollen out of the air,” he said.

While a wet August might provide allergy sufferers some temporary relief for that same reason, Scott warns that more moisture will probably just give weeds more opportunity to grow larger and release more pollen at the end of the month.

Monster weeds created by an unseasonably wet spring and summer in the Grand Valley are about to wreak havoc on allergy sufferers, Scott said. Every year, folks with allergies can pretty much count on a cycle that starts with trees releasing pollen in early spring, grasses pollinating in early to midsummer, and weeds sending out their pollen in August.

Weeds are particularly predictable in their pollen peak releases, and health officials are warning that this year could be particularly bad for those allergic to weed pollen simply because of the proliferation of weeds in the valley and the weeds’ gigantic size, encouraged by the wet weather.

“Kochia is the worst weed pollen of all in the valley,” he said, noting that kochia and other weeds in the chenopod family like Russian thistle and pigweed are the prime offenders for 80 percent of the weed allergy sufferers in the valley.

While air quality reports showed trees pollinating roughly a month early this year, the timing of weeds pollinating isn’t variable from year to year. They pollinate based on the number of hours of sunlight in a day, and the pollen can travel hundreds of miles through the air.

“They pollinate the same time of year, every year, because they’re on the sun’s clock,” Scott said. “If you haven’t weeded your garden or around your house, now is the time to do it, because in two weeks, it will be too late.” Weed pollen concentrations peak during the last half of August in the Grand Valley.

The wet weather might also be aggravating those with allergies to mold, but it’s hard to tell if there is an increased amount of mold spores floating around outside, Scott said.

“We have no way to monitor mold. We’ve seen more patients with outdoor mold allergies this year have problems, though,” he said. Unlike more humid areas of the country, the Grand Valley’s primary source of mold is alternaria, and it’s common to find it on rotting leaves or vegetation in compost piles.

The forecast for this week warns of high weed pollen concentrations, with hot, dry weather at the end of the week only making the situation worse for allergy sufferers.

For allergy sufferers wanting to prepare their defense against weed pollen this month, Scott recommends trying over-the-counter antihistamines such as Zyrtec or Allegra, or the generic drugs with the same active ingredients.

“We’re fortunate to live in an era where there are a lot of over-the-counter medicines for allergies,” he said.

For red, itchy eyes, he recommends eyedrops containing ketotifin, which doesn’t cause rebound redness like some other eyedrops available on the market.


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