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Allergies permeate the Butte as summer heats up and pollen flies

Embracing the season and how to remedy those bleary-eyed sneezes and wheezes

By Kendra Walker

It’s snowing in the summer—at least, the pollen wafting around town sure makes it feel like we’re back to snow-globe status. Those wildflowers are popping up faster than we can keep up with and that summer breeze is blowing steady. Allergy season, inevitable as ever, is upon us.

Pollen, those tiny grains being released from flowers and plants and getting carried by the wind to cross-pollinate, is the biggest culprit of seasonal allergies right now in Colorado’s wildflower capital. According to pollen tracking website Pollen.com, Crested Butte’s pollen levels have averaged at “medium” levels this past month. Despite all the runny noses, watery eyes and sneezes you may have experienced recently, levels actually dropped to “low-medium” this past week and are forecasted to hold steady in “low-medium” for the remainder of the week. It must be all the extra visitors breathing everything in.

According to the website, the top allergens in the area have been from wind-pollinated grasses, chenopods and plantain weeds, which are known for producing large amounts of pollen.

“It seems like the allergy season has been more significant this year than in the past,” said Dr. Kenneth Anderson of the Gunnison Valley Health Family Medicine Clinic. Typically, he sees patients coming in due to allergies from late spring all the way into the fall. “We tend to see allergy symptoms in late spring with tree pollens, and grasses and weeds in the summer,” he said, adding that you can theoretically experience symptoms throughout the entire year, especially if you are susceptible to mold, which he observes frequently from patients in the Gunnison Valley. 

Anderson believes this season’s increase is due to the extra moisture we received earlier this year, but also noted that the timing of this spring/summer season’s allergies is about average compared to previous years.

I’ve got hay fever, and the only prescription is… (not more cowbell)

“I always tell people if they do know there’s a specific time of year when they have bad allergies, start antihistamines prior to that,“ recommends Anderson. Over-the-counter options like Zyrtec and Claritin can be helpful, and “nasal or sinus rinses help get rid of the pollen and debris,” he said, adding, “Steroid nasal sprays decrease inflammation in nasal passages.”

Eye rinses can help handle those itchy, irritated eyes. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, Anderson also recommends getting tested for what allergies you are susceptible to in order to determine if you require an allergy shot.

Natural remedies are also an option. Katie Cascino at Mountain Earth Whole Foods recommends going natural to keep allergy symptoms at bay, including using local honeys, teas and products that have been infused with natural pollens to help create a natural antihistamine. “I’m all about the local, natural remedies,” she said, especially for allergy relief.

Rooted Apothecary’s cottonwood honey comes highly recommended. “We harvest the cottonwood buds and extract them into the local honey,” said licensed esthetician Aubree Scarff. Other natural ingredients in Rooted’s allergy-specific teas and remedies include yarrow, elderflower, sage, dandelion, osha and stinging nettles, which all grow in the region. “Nettles is a really good one for histamine reactions,” Scarff said. “And the osha root is really good for opening sinuses up and helping you to breathe deeper.”

Wish Garden’s High Country Allergy & Sinus is an all-natural liquid supplement several Mountain Earth staff members use for allergies. It contains yerba santa leaf, nettle leaf, echinacea, yerba mansa root, elderflower and horseradish root.

Otherwise, check pollen trackers and weather apps for pollen counts, keep windows closed as much as possible and wash hands and clothes after being outside to get rid of that pollen and debris, recommends Anderson.

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