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Tree pollen levels are on a roller coaster ride in the Willamette Valley

Limbs and early buds and catkins of a tree
Karen Richards
A birch tree in Eugene with early leaves and long catkins, the pollen-producing part of the tree.

While many people are getting out gardening gloves this time of year, some are reaching for the tissue box.

Kraig Jacobson is the Medical Director at Oregon Allergy Associates in Eugene. He said we’re about a third of the way into tree pollen season, and so far it’s similar to the past few years, which is about two weeks earlier than, say, 25 years ago.

“Tree pollen tends to go up and down and up and down and up and down, because we’re going in and out of rain, sun, rain, sun, rain, sun," he told KLCC. "Whereas the grass pollen, especially when we have continuous dry for a long period of time, kind of builds and builds and builds and builds.”

Jacobsen said on the rainy days last week, pollen counts were down into the teens. Over the weekend and early this week, the numbers increased by tenfold twice.

Jacobsen said tree pollen dispersal starts with hazelnuts in January, followed by alder. People sensitive to birch and ash may feel symptoms now, including itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose and sneezing. Grass season is generally from mid-May through June.

The numbers on Oregon Allergy Associates website reflect the prior day’s count. To get those statistics, Jacobson studies strips of pollen under a microscope to determine which types in the air each day and how dense they are. He said many factors can influence how much pollen is in the air, including temperature, sunshine, humidity and rain, and wind—breezes help the airborne pollens disperse.

©2024 KLCC News.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.
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