Lake Tahoe pollen counts much higher following big winter |

Lake Tahoe pollen counts much higher following big winter

Pollen accumulates in Sand Harbor on Lake Tahoe.
Ryan Hoffman/Tahoe Daily Tribune

If the pollen gets any thicker and deeper at Lake Tahoe, residents are likely going to try to ski it.

The sticky dust attaches itself to everything it touches. It gets in the eyes, throat and nose making life miserable for those with sensitivities.

Pollen annually paints the basin a greenish yellow, and the floating dust is especially heavy after big winters.

Since May, pollen counts have been moderate to very high at Lake Tahoe, according to The Weather Channel’s allergy tracker and the trend continues into July.

The length and intensity of pollen season’s peak depends on temperature and the frequency of warm days.

“Pollen season begins when the winter weather stops and things start to warm up,” said Dr. Ronald Roth, who treats ear, nose and throat issues at Barton Health. “Last season, we had an extremely long winter and therefore our local plant life’s blooming season had a very late start. Plants bloom later in cold weather, so after a big winter, pollen tends to arrive later. In drought years, pollen occurs much earlier.”

Pollen counts last year at the end of June were 133 parts per million, the Tribune previously reported.

As the powdery dust falls from trees and vegetation and gets carried for miles throughout the basin by wind, insects or other animals, this year the mark stands at 199 ppm as of earlier this week.

Lake Tahoe’s pollen count is one of the highest totals in the country, with Springfield, New Jersey, being the allergy capital at 299 ppm, according to The Weather Channel.

“A wet winter results in plants having a higher density of pollen, and when they bloom, our environment experiences an increased pollen count,” Roth said. “Here at Tahoe, both pine trees and flowering plants bloom, producing the clouds of yellow pollen hanging over the north and south shore when the wind picks up.”

The main culprit producing the pollen that covers almost everything comes are pine trees, mainly the male pine cones.

Male pine cones are only produced in warmer months despite the trees being evergreen.

Some pines can produce up to 5 pounds of pollen in two to four weeks.

Pollen carries sperm cells that allow plant fertilization to take place, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Grains of pine pollen have wing-like air cells so they can float through the air and travel farther distances, which creates more genetic variation among trees. Some grains of pollen can travel hundreds of miles.

But the pollen falling from pine trees is not what most people are allergic to — rather, the sneezing, coughing, runny noses and sore throats come from grasses and other types of trees.

Nothing can be done about the concentration of pollen in the air; however, there are some things that can be done to limit exposure and control allergies, which are fiercest in June and July, with the season extending into fall.

Some things the AAFA recommends are keeping windows closed and changing filters and air cleaners on air conditioning and HVAC units; bathing before bed; washing clothes after being outdoors; washing bedding in hot, soapy water once per week; wearing sunglasses and a hat outdoors to keep pollen out of the eyes and hair; limiting contact with outdoor pets; and drying clothes in a dryer on not on a line.

“Current remedies for allergies include nasal sprays such as Flonase and Rhinocort and Astelin,” Roth said. “These are topical steroid and antihistamine nasal sprays to control allergy symptoms. Over-the-counter antihistamines such as Claritin and Zyrtec and Allegra are also very helpful. For a runny noses, using the decongestant forms of these medicines helps control this symptom.

“If over-the-counter remedies are not effective you can always see your local physician who has the number of prescription medicines to manage severe allergy symptoms.”

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