There’s nothing to sneeze at. In fact it is.

In recent columns, I’ve talked about things that pop up on a regular basis. Changing our clocks forward one hour to start daylight saving time and the vernal equinox which marks the official start of spring. Now another annual event takes place. I really wasn’t paying attention to it, but I noticed that my sinuses were working more than usual beyond what is normal for my chronic sinus condition. I decided to check the pollen count and there was my answer. Tree pollen was up to 239 in the high category. Pollen from the trees now floating comes from alder, birch family, juniper/cedar, and many other spring trees. I guess the warmer than normal temperatures we experienced caused many plants to start flowering earlier than normal.

Birch pollen (enlarged) | Photo from the scientific photo library

I am allergic to ragweed, grasses and trees. Since I grew up in upstate New York, all three were available to make me sneeze. The tree allergy started in the spring, followed by the grass allergy. There was usually a pause where the sneezing stopped. It was always around my birthday the first week of August. The break lasted a week or two at most, and then ragweed season took over. Ragweed season lasted the rest of the summer. Once I left New York State, the ragweed allergy was no longer a problem because there was no ragweed in the other places where I lived. The other two allergies, however, appeared wherever I moved for a new job.

Ragweek | Photo by

For those with seasonal allergies and even those who don’t, it’s a good idea to define the problem. According to, allergy is “An incorrect reaction to foreign substances by the immune system, the body’s system against foreign invaders, especially pathogens (agents of infection). The allergic reaction is erroneous since these foreign substances are generally harmless. The substances that trigger the allergy are called allergens. Examples include pollens, dust mites, molds, dander, and certain foods. People prone to allergies are said to be allergic or atopic.

The site lists the the most common allergic conditions such as “hay fever (allergic rhinitis), asthma, allergic eyes (allergic conjunctivitis), allergic eczema, hives and allergic shock (also called anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock) “.

Allergy shot
Allergy shot | Photo by auquier ENTbng via

“Pollen allergies affect up to 30% of adults and 40% of children in the United States,” according to Allergy symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medications and remedies, prescription allergy medications, and allergy shots. When I was first officially diagnosed with my allergies, I underwent a series of injections using increasingly less diluted solutions containing the types of pollen I am allergic to. I was about to only have to get vaccinated once a year when I spent a month in the hospital with a fever of 107 of undetermined origin resulting in a blood clot in my leg. It was during this period that I had to get vaccinated against allergies. Due to the long delay in receiving the injection, I would have had to start all over again. It wasn’t possible for me at the time, so I had to go back to prescription drugs and nasal sprays.

If you or a member of your family have seasonal allergies that are not relieved by over-the-counter products, the best alternative is to consult an allergy specialist. In my case, when I had increasingly severe allergy symptoms, I went to Oregon Allergy Associates. This is not an advertisement for them, but the reason I chose them is that they provide the only official pollen count for the Eugene-Springfield area. I was regularly in direct contact with them to obtain the number of pollens which I diffused on television. I continue to use their reporting here on Eugene Daily News. Just go to Chuey’s Corner and the current pollen count will be right after the Eugene-Springfield forecast.

Normal Sinus-Sinusitis | Image by

For me the tests were not that complicated and we got a better picture of my allergic situation. The only problem was that we were already doing pretty much everything that could be done for me. I was suggested to go see an ENT specialist (ear, nose and throat). I did and Dr. Susan Urben over time performed two separate surgeries on my sinuses and nasal passages (no, not a nose job) which greatly improved my sinus function.

Air sampler
Burkard Air Sampler | Photo by Oregon Allergy Associates

Here is a brief overview of how Oregon Allergy Associates uses technology to provide the pollen counts I publish for you.They use a device called the Burkard Air Sampler which they have placed on the second floor of their office building in downtown Eugene at 15th Avenue and Oak Street. The machine has a vacuum pump that sucks in air like human lungs do.

Inside view
Interior view of the Burkard Air Sampler | Photo by Oregon Allergy Associates

Air flows over a greased microscope slide inside and pollen settles on the slide. Pollen grains are counted daily from Monday to Friday. For samples taken while the office is unattended over the weekend or for up to a week, an adapter is used with tape to capture the pollen.

If you want more details regarding the pollen count or information about their medical practice, you can go to their homepage at .

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