Allergy season in Alaska is more mild than last year

Pollen and allergy season has ranges in the moderate level this year
Published: Jun. 4, 2021 at 3:09 PM AKDT|Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 8:38 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -Sneezing, itchy eyes, and a stuffy nose. Those are just some of the pesky things that people suffering from pollen allergies deal with this time of year in Alaska.

Last year, people experienced a record-high birch pollen count in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

“I think in comparison, our tree pollen counts are significantly higher than they are in the lower 48,” said Dr. Laura Moore with the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center of Alaska. “Every year a different tree pollen will be the peak pollen. This year birch and alder actually are low, and actually it’s the poplar family that’s been markedly higher than normal.”

She said so far this year, Anchorage is in the moderate category with levels comparable to what they were in 2018.

“This year’s allergy (and) pollen season has actually been milder than prior years because of the winter and how long it took for the snow to melt,” Moore said. “The season started a little bit later.”

Moore said some factors that play into the severity of the season are sunlight exposure, moisture and temperature.

“So there’s a lot of environmental and weather factors that play into that,” she said.

If left untreated, Moore said symptoms have the potential to turn into something more severe.

“So actually airborne allergies often will trigger asthma, so you can sometimes, often develop the allergy symptoms first and then the asthma can occur later,” she said.

David Kingston, a physician assistant at the clinic, tracks pollen levels through a trap on the roof of the Providence Health Park.

“We have our Burkard trap which is essentially a device that intakes the air and the pollen with it, places it on a slide, and the pollen is captured on a slide there,” Kingston said. “Once the pollen’s captured on the slide, we can then stain the slide and measure the pollen under a microscope and then post our counts to the website. This device is very informative and helpful in determining our pollen counts, and where we’re at in our pollen season.”

Moore said if traditional allergy medications aren’t helping relieve symptoms, nasal steroids might be more effective.

“There’s actually four of those now over the counter: Flonase, Flonase Sensimist, Nasacort and Rhinocort,” she said. “Those are better treatment options than the pills. Olopatadine is probably a good one to use if you have a lot of eye allergy symptoms too.”

If those treatments don’t work, it might be time to head to the doctor’s office to start working on a more permanent solution.

“Some of the things that we offer here are sublingual immunotherapy, which is a drop that goes into the tongue,” Moore said. “It’s a daily therapy that’s given at home, and then immunotherapy that’s kind of the conventional version which is allergy shots, which is an injection that’s done twice a week for buildup and then once you hit buildup it’s a three-to five-year treatment therapy.”

The Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center of Alaska posts and updates the most recent pollen counts on their website.

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