Las Vegas Sun

June 18, 2019

Currently: 91° — Complete forecast

5-MINUTE EXPERT:

Be ready for pollen season

mulberry

Shutterstock.com

Worst offenders

• Fruitless/male mulberry trees

• Ash trees

• Pine trees

• Elm

• Sycamore

• Olive

• Ragweed

• Grass

• Mold

Some of the biggest pollen culprits in the Valley

• January: Cedar pollen in Boulder City

• February: Elm and Ash pollen release begins

• March: Mulberry pollen peak; ash, pin and cedar pollen present

• April: Olive pollen peak; during this period, oak, ragweed, and Chenopodium/Amaranthus are also present

• May: Grass pollen peak

• August: Chenopodium/Amaranthus late summer production

• September: Fall production of sagebrush and elm pollen

If you thought you left your allergies back in the Midwest or California, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. We desert-dwellers have it better than most­—we’re the 53rd-worst city for allergens—but we’re still not in the clear.

Officially known as seasonal allergic rhinitis (or, more casually, hay fever), pollen allergies strike in Las Vegas in the fall and spring. The scorching summer months provide relief. But there’s no reason to stand by and wait for the season to pass. Learn more about pollen so you can fight back and feel better.

What is pollen?

Just like animals, there are male and female plants. Females produce flowers, and males produce pollen. If all goes according to nature’s plan, the pollen will catch a breeze or be carried by passing insects and animals, land on a female plant and plant babies will be made.

Why is it bothersome?

Pollen particles have evolved into shapes that are sticky, aerodynamic and resemble more nefarious substances, so the immune systems of some individuals wage war against the supposed invaders. Allergy symptoms are the side effects of that war.

Why it's getting worse

• Climate change: Erratic weather leads to shorter winters and longer growing seasons, which means that in Las Vegas, allergy season starts a little earlier each year.

• Nonnative species: As more people move to Las Vegas from other states, they bring plants they loved back home, and the pollen/allergens that come with them. For example, older parts of Las Vegas are full of allergen-producing mulberry trees not native to the desert. Clark County has since banned them.

Pollen allergy symptoms

• Runny, stuffy and/or itchy nose

• Red, swollen, itchy and/or watery eyes

• Congestion and/or mucus production

NOTE: It’s often hard to tell a difference between allergies and an infection. Fever does not typically accompany allergies, so if you have a fever, see a doctor. If your mucus is yellow/green instead of clear, see a doctor.

How to cope on days when pollen counts are high

1. Physically remove the problem. Pollen can stick to your clothes and hair, so shower and put on fresh clothes when you get home. Vacuum and wash sheets regularly to help clear lingering allergens.

2. Limit exposure: The weather may be beautiful, but stay inside and keep your windows closed. Don’t line dry your clothes outside, and keep your pets indoors (or wash them) to keep them from tracking in allergens. Change your air filters every few months.

3. Over-the-Counter medication:

• Antihistamines will stop your body from producing the chemical (histamine) that makes you itchy and stuffy.

• Decongestants will loosen the gunk in your sinuses, but be sure to stay hydrated.

• Saline nasal spray can help mitigate symptoms. For people who hate to take pills, this is the best choice.

4. Seek professional help: A doctor can test to see exactly which allergens bother you most and provide prescription-strength medications and longer-lasting solutions, such as allergy shots.

Why it’s worth treating: You might be tempted to tough it out by ignoring your symptoms. But untreated allergies can lead to complications such as sinus infections, fatigue, malaise and lost productivity, or they can trigger asthma. Also, life is short; don’t waste it feeling miserable.

PRO TIP

UNLV Pollen Monitoring Program Supervisor Asma Tahir suggests taking antihistamines at night so they will already be in your system in the morning, when allergens tend to be the worst.

Program stats

• 43: Types of pollen tracked

• 5: Collection sites throughout the valley

• 29: Types of mold tracked

• 1: Number of control sites in the desert

• 5: Rating types (low, moderate, high, very high or absent)

• 365: Number of days per year pollen is tested

CCSD/UNLV Pollen Monitoring Program

In partnership with the Clark County School District and Department of Air Quality, UNLV’s School of Community Health Sciences counts the pollen in Las Vegas every day. Because different parts of the Valley have different pollen concentrations, the program runs multiple pollen collection sites. One is at UNLV, and the other four are at Jerome D. Mack Middle School, J.D. Smith Middle School, Joseph M. Neal Elementary School and Palo Verde High School. They also test a control site in Jean. The pollen is painstakingly collected and counted by hand under a microscope by UNLV researchers, and the information is made available to the general public via their website (unlv.edu/publichealth/pollen). Clark County students get to see science in action. The collection spots double as a great learning opportunity.