Record pollen count, Alaskans facing an itchy allergy season

Published: May. 13, 2020 at 9:06 AM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Alaska does the great outdoors better than just about anywhere, but as we all head outside pollen is becoming a big concern.

"We have such high levels of birch, some of the highest in the world. In fact, as of yesterday, we have the world record," say's Dr. Jeffrey Demain, founder of the Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Center of Alaska.

In fact, the record wasn't just broken, it was smashed. In Fairbanks on Monday (5-11-20) the birch pollen count hit 7,045 / m3. For those of us who don't speak pollen levels, here's a comparison the previous record, which was set in Denmark in 2014, was 4,698 / m3. In fact in Anchorage this past Tuesday the number was just 298 / m3 and even that is considered high.

According to Dr. Demain, the Fairbanks birch levels are typically about a week ahead of Anchorage so he is expecting a big spike in the state's largest city soon.

Allergies don't affect everyone but for those that are affected it can be rough, itchy eyes, skin irritation, it can even affect breathing so it's important to address the issue.

"There are some very simple therapies that oftentimes work pretty well like antihistamines," says Dr. Demain.

While those drugs can reduce symptoms up to about 50% in some they don't work at all for others. In that case, other steps can be taken but they do involve a healthcare provider.

According to Dr. Demain those steps "May range from behavioral change and environmental adaptation, all the way up to, let's start allergy shots and allergy shots are as close to a cure as we have."

While some suffer from allergies at an early age they can develop over time as well. In Alaska, where a portion of our population is transient, one may find that our pollen's affect them when others have not.

"They may be fine the first year-round. But they'rep- genetically wired to develop ours and we have such high levels of birch it makes them much more vulnerable to develop that sensitivity," says Dr. Demain.

Complicating matters more at the moment is the Covid-19 pandemic, some symptoms of which, look similar to allergies.

"If we have an asthmatic calling us or a patient that's new that's that's calling us to be seen and they're having a lot of coughing and can't catch their breath the first thing that comes to our mind is could this be COVID? Then we have to tease that out through history and if they say no, this has really been going on since September, we know it's not," says Dr. Demain.

Regardless of complications, pandemics, or even pollen count the simplest advice still seems like the best advice.

"I think good health is important. If you're having worsening symptoms, please let us know or let your doctor know, so we can get them under better control." Says Dr. Demain.

So enjoy all this sun, enjoy all this shine, but if your eyes start to get a little bit itchy, it might be time to get that checked out.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All Rights Reserved.