Spring is in the air: Pollen has allergy sufferers suffering

With spring coming into bloom, allergy patients have been reporting an increase in symptoms over the last few weeks, according to Dr. Kristina James, allergist at the Peninsula Allergy and Asthma Center.


As seasonal temperatures rise and seasons change, pollen counts become integral information for Kenai Peninsula community members suffering from springtime allergies. When allergists know what type of pollens are present and their levels in the air, they can better advise patients on how to handle being around the allergens, James said.

James said if someone is experiencing symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes and skin and trouble breathing to increase the dosage of their medication, or to reduce exposure.

Pollen counts are higher in the morning so James recommends doing things outdoors later in the day. She also said to shower or wash hands after activities like gardening and immediately change your clothes, so pollen isn’t brought indoors.

Currently there is no pollen counter set up in the central Kenai area, James said.

Installing a pollen counter requires a proper site, James said. A flat roof surrounded by trees is necessary for making accurate counts, but her offices only have a flat roof. The staff at the Peninsula and Allergy and Asthma Center is currently working toward having a counter set up by next springtime, she said.

For now, James relies on pollen counts issued from the Anchorage Municipal Department of Health and Human Services Air Quality Reports.

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, 10 to 20 percent of the population suffers form allegoric rhinitis or “hay fever.”

Pollen counts will vary from Anchorage to Kenai, said Anne Schlapia, the air quality project manager at the Municipal Department of Health and Human Services. Pollen counts will also vary from day to day.

For example in Anchorage on Friday, the tree pollen count was 2,862 grains per cubic meter of air, and on Tuesday, only 585-grains per cubic meter of air were found, according to the Anchorage Pollen and Mold Reporting Air Quality Program.

Anything above 1,500 is considered high for tree pollen counts, Schlapia said. Mold spores were present, but their numbers were considered low, she said.

The amount of pollen from birch trees varies per season, Schlapia said. Birch pollen made up 95 percent in the May 9 report and 75 percent of pollen in the May 13 report, she said.

Pollen levels also depend on the amount of certain flora present in the area, Schlapia said. For example, Fairbanks has more aspen trees than Anchorage.

Birch trees release pollen in mid to late May, while alder pollen is present in late May to late June, and spruce pollen occurs in early June to mid July, all of which are common to the central Kenai Peninsula, James said.

As the summer progresses, grass pollen is widespread in late June to late July, and weed pollen increases from late June to late August, according to the Anchorage Pollen and Mold Reporting Calendar. Mold pollen is present over the longest period, from late June until late September.

According to Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services data, pollen releases are often preceded by warm weather, and Alaska is warming up.

Temperatures have been pushing into the 60s in recent days.

No health advisory notifications are in currently in effect. Notifications are issued whenever air pollution levels reach or are predicted to reach unhealthy levels, have not issued currently, according to the Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services.


Kelly Sullivan can be reached at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.


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