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Published on May 02, 2019

low angle view of tree pollen against the sky

Pollen Count: What Does it Mean?

If you experience the sniffles and watery eyes of seasonal allergies, you may be wondering: What’s up with the “pollen count” numbers and graphics seen around the Internet, and how can that information help me?

Arthur "Skip" A. Moeller, DO, Avera Medical Group Ear, Nose & Throat and Otolaryngology specialist, offers these insights on this handy benchmark measurement for sufferers of springtime allergy symptoms.

Question: What does pollen count mean?

Answer: It is a measurement of pollen concentration in the air. Scientists often put it in terms as the number of grains of pollen per cubic meter of air. When you know what the concentration level is, you can better predict the level that may lead to symptoms. For most people, a pollen count reported as low, medium, high or very high is enough to best prepare for it.

Q: How can a person make use of a pollen count in avoiding issues with allergies?

A: If you know you have an allergy to a particular pollen or family of pollens, you can plan avoidance measures when the count is high. Or anticipate the need to have medications available for treatment management, when pollen levels begin to rise.

Q: Are there best sources for getting an accurate pollen count in your neighborhood/community?

A: There are several apps that report pollen counts. I frequently use pollen count information provided in The Weather Channel app. I also tend to frequently reference the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s website at Aaaai.org.

Q: Seasonal allergies can be miserable – any tips on dealing with them?

A: Avoiding pollens you are allergic to can be very difficult, especially since moving to a geographical location where you don’t have allergies is rarely an option. Although you may not be able to avoid all exposure, look for ways to limit it, including some simple measures that tend to help us the most:

  • Make sure you are changing the filters on you home heating and cooling units as recommended.
  • If you spend time outdoors, remember that your clothing acts like a sponge and will collect pollen. You may later inhale it if you continue to wear the same clothing indoors. Outerwear, especially sweatshirts and hats, need to be removed as soon as you come indoors.

See your primary care provider, who can help with symptoms or refer you to a specialist who may be able to help you find approaches that make spring less of a battle with pollen.

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