The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Carthage, Jasper County

April 20, 2010

Pollen counts high this spring

JOPLIN, Mo- — Trees, flowers and grasses have a way of sharing their love — that green dust — and it can be quite annoying for people with allergies.

“Every year we say this is the worst spring ever for pollen,” said Dr. David Straub, with Allergy & Immunology PC, 706 W. 26th St. “But I’m close to saying that this really is the worst year for pollen.”

Straub said some of his patients whose symptoms can normally be controlled with allergy treatments are “crossing the threshold. The pollen intensity is so strong, their treatment cannot control their symptoms.”

He also said he has been seeing an increased number of patients with serious symptoms this year.

“The tree pollen and grass pollen and favorable weather conditions are making it difficult for people,” Straub said. “Some people are miserable.”

Straub may be right about this being the worst spring ever for pollen. The late arrival of spring has compressed the bloom season. Parts of Southwest Missouri as late as March 21 were covered with snow. Warm weather arrived, and a host of trees, flowers and grasses decided it was time to produce pollen — all at once.

Last Wednesday, a pollen monitoring station at Diamond logged a pollen count of 11.7. The highest reading possible is a 12. It has since dropped to below 10.

Lisa Myers, with Allergon, a Carthage company that collects local pollen samples for laboratory use, said: “We were behind schedule this year with the cold weather. It was cold, and then it became warm and everything started blooming later.

“With the high temperatures and winds, two weeks of pollination hit within three days. Everything was starting to catch up. It was everything blooming at the same time.”

Her company picks several hundred pounds of flowers of species that are about to produce pollen.

“Pollen has a size, shape and characteristics,” Myers said. “We identify the tree and its blooming stage when it’s ready for pollination. We pick the flowers.”

That pollen is sent to Sweden, where it is processed and goes through a final purification. From there, the product will be used in allergy extract shots for actual patients and for a diagnostic testing kit that is used to determine a person’s allergies.

The pollen season started in the area with the American elm and box elder. Next came the sugar maple, cottonwood, sycamore and white oak. Right now, Allergon personnel are testing for paper mulberry.

Oaks have contributed to the high pollen counts of late.

There are more than 10 oak species in Southwest Missouri, Myers said, and each has a distinct pollen.

Even for Myers, this spring has been a bit rough at times.

“I do get sensitive, and I don’t have bad allergies at all,” she said.

Straub said it is best for allergy sufferers to keep their household windows shut while pollen counts are high.

“Air conditioning is excellent. Attic fans are not excellent. They just bring the pollen into your house,” he said. “I hate to tell people to minimize outdoor activities, but when their symptoms are severe, they might want to cut back somewhat.

“If you are mowing grass and raking leaves, wear a mask. After you have been outside, use a saline rinse to clear out your nose.”

Washing your hair before going to bed also will rid it of the green dust. And taking your shoes off outside will prevent the trekking of pollen through the house.

Pollen allergies

Most plants release pollen in the morning. Allergy symptoms include feeling run-down and tired, sneezing, itchy eyes, headaches and coughing.

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Carthage, Jasper County

A Missouri Senate committee has endorsed a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. The proposed constitutional amendment passed the House earlier this month. If passed by the full Senate, the measure would head to the November ballot for voter approval. Would you vote in favor of it?

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