The Nose Knows And The Eyes Have It!

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Pollen Grains
Pollen Grains Magnified | Image by penntoday.upenn.edu

Have you noticed lately that more people are sneezing and blowing their nose? I certainly have and I am one of those doing the sneezing and sniffling. With the COVID-19 precautions we’re all wearing masks and a lot of us are fearful when someone coughs or sneezes for fear they have the virus. Instead it’s tree pollen allergy. I have the grass allergy also and that season has not really begun as yet.

Sneeze
Man Sneezing | Photo by howitworksdaily.com

So far, the tree pollen count has already reached the high level. Some of us are sensitive enough that our sinuses go crazy when the count is in the low category. For those of you without the seasonal allergies you may not understand what those of us who suffer from the Spring and Summer allergies have to endure. As I have mentioned in past articles, over the years I have lived all over the county. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, they all have been centers for one kind of allergen or more. In 1992 I moved to Oregon, specifically the Southern Willamette Valley, which just happens to be  the grass seed producing capitol of the world.

Oregon Grass Sed
Oregon Grass Seed | Photo by oregonstate.org

In my particular case my strongest allergies are to ragweed, grasses and trees. Once I moved away from the Eastern U.S. I no longer had to worry about ragweed, since it wasn’t found in the rest of the places where I have lived. As far as I know, there is no way to escape grass and trees unless I move to the desert, live on a boat or move to the International Space Station.

What is an allergy? Let’s go to the experts for the definition. According to Oregon Allergy Associates of Eugene “allergies are genetic hypersensitivity that causes a reaction when a person is exposed to something. As a person breathes in the allergen, the immune system over-reacts and causes symptoms of itchy eyes, such as sneezing, congestion, or runny nose. Allergy symptoms can last several weeks or months, and in some people can occur year-round.”

Pollen Grains
Pollen Under Electron Microscope | Image by allergyandhealth.com

Our summer allergies are caused by pollen which is simply the tiny reproductive cells of plants. It’s hard to believe that something so minuscule , most of which can only be clearly visible under a microscope, can cause so much misery. What do these “little guys” look like anyway?

Maple Tree Flowers And Pollen | Photo by wesharepics.info
Maple Tree Flowers And Pollen | Photo by wesharepics.info

Let’s start with tree pollen which starts off the allergy season in the spring. The trees return to their growing cycle after hunkering down for the winter. The trees blossom producing those pollen grains. Locally, in the South Willamette Valley, the trees that are pollinating are the Alder, Ash, conifers, and many spring tree pollen are being collected .

Grass Pollen
Grass Pollen Through Microscope | Image by Dr. David M. Phillips Through gettyimages.com

The grass pollen season is not underway as of this publication. If you have a strong allergy response then the pollen count report just confirms your suspicion that the count has risen rapidly.

If you are not sure to what you are allergic you might want to seek out an allergy specialist to  run some tests to identify exactly what is causing your allergy symptoms. The pollen count that I post here on Eugene Daily News comes from a local source, Oregon Allergy Associates.

Pollen Collector
Pollen Count Collection Device | Photo by Oregon Allergy Associates

They use a machine to obtain the pollen samples. Quoting from their website: “A vacuum pump pulls air through a small port that is directed into the wind. The air impacts onto a greased microscope slide inside the Burkard cylinder.

The slide moves down a track in front of the airflow at 2 millimeters per hour.”

Inside View
Inside View Burkard Device | Photo by Oregon Allergy Associates

The slides are changed out every day, Monday through Friday, and replaced the following morning. After removal from the apparatus a stain is applied to the slide to enable identification of the type of pollen captured and an accurate count reflecting the number of pollen grains seen in one pass under the microscope.

A mathematical formula is used to determine the number of grains per cubic meter of air that was sampled. They also have another adapter they can use that has a sticky tape which rotates on a wheel and allows them to obtain 7-days of unattended sampling. That method is used during the height of the pollen season.

The pollen count report is visible on the EDN Front Page under Advisories throughout the summer allergy season and is posted at the end of the Eugene-Springfield forecast. Here is what it looks like.

Eugene-Springfield Pollen Count:

Grass………. LOW (0)

Trees………. HIGH (165)

Last Counted: 4/8/21

Data Courtesy of Oregon Allergy Associates.

Now that you know what causes the problem it’s time to see what can be done about it. As I mentioned earlier the first step is to go to an allergy specialist to determine exactly what triggers your allergy response. Then there are choices to be made. The first one that comes to mind is what I have always told people who didn’t like the weather. My answer was simple. If you don’t like the weather here, move. That might work if your allergy is specific to this area and causing you a lot of trouble. Moving to an area where your specific allergen doesn’t exist could eliminate the problem. For most of us that solution is not an option because allergens are everywhere, so medication becomes the best solution.

OTC Allergy Remedies
Over-The-Counter Allergy Remedies | Photo by businessinsider.com

There are many over-the-counter products that can help some people. If not then prescription medications are the next step. There is a preventative measure that works for some. It did for me back when I was in high school. A dilute solution containing the pollen you are allergic to can be injected and the amount of allergen can be slowly raised over a period of time to a level you can tolerate without symptoms. I know it worked for me way back then. The tree pollen season is going to end but before it does the grass season begins. The summer allergy season is usually over around the 4th of July or a week or so after that. The only thing that is sure is that allergy season will return next year and the year after that, etc. so finding something that at least relieves your suffering is a necessity. Good luck, God bless you and Gesundheit.

If you have an idea for a future topic let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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