Allergy season hitting the valley

“It’s not just humans…”


You might see them on Elk Avenue in Crested Butte or Main Street in Gunnison, walking down the street rubbing their eyes. The kid standing in left field blowing his nose is one. The mom scratching her head as she pushes the baby jogger up the recreation path is another. They are the ones affected by allergies, and as summer in Crested Butte and Gunnison comes into bloom, so does allergy season.



It has been a wet early summer in the valley. Rain helps keep the pollen down and that keeps the allergies to a minimum. But the rains have taken a break and so there is a good chance if you are allergic to certain plants, you are feeling the effects. What looks like a mid-afternoon summer snowstorm in Gunnison is actually cottonwoods trying to breed.
“It is happening big-time at the moment,” explained Sylvia Bonham of the Colorado State University Extension office in Gunnison. “The cottonwoods are affecting everyone right now. It is really blowing down here in Gunnison. And remember that cottonwoods are related to aspens and poplars and they are all releasing pollen right now. Notice the yellow layer of pollen on your deck? Probably from an aspen.”
Pollens are tiny egg-shaped powdery grains released from flowering plants. They’re carried by the wind or insects, and serve to cross-pollinate other plants of the same type for reproductive purposes. When pollen is present in the air, it can land in a person’s eyes, nose, lungs and skin to set up an allergic reaction.
When you have an allergic reaction you may feel a combination of the following symptoms: sneezing, wheezing, nasal congestion, coughing, itchy eyes, stomach-ache, and itchy skin.
Sixty-seven million Americans suffer from allergies. According to the website, Crested Butte and Gunnison are at a medium level of allergy alertness at the moment. The website points a finger at grasses in the area as a cause of allergies right now as well. Weeds can be expected to pollinate throughout the summer months.
Longtime Crested Butte physician Roger Sherman said the allergy seasons can actually start in Crested Butte before the snow melts in April, when mold sometimes sets up on the snow. “But there are several peaks because different people are allergic to different things,” he said. “Here, June and July are the busiest months for allergies. We have a lot of people coming in for their allergy shots right now.”
Sherman said by late August or early September, the bulk of the allergies have gone away. “I recommend nasal washes with a netty pot,” he said. “You brush your teeth and wash your hands. The netty pot washes out the dust and allergens that are in your nose. It helps big time in a benign, passive way and I recommend doing it twice a day. Studies show it is the single best thing you can do.”
Various medications, both over-the-counter and prescription can help as well. “Medications like Zyrtec and Allegra can be effective,” Sherman said. “A nasal steroid spray like Flonase is the next step and for more intensive allergic reactions, allergy shots may be necessary.’
The time of day also has an impact on the severity of allergic reactions. “Pollens are usually highest in the mornings, but grass is elevated in the morning and evening,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Demain, director of the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center of Alaska. “If you’re tree- or weed-allergic, plan outdoor activities for the afternoon or evening. If you’re grass-allergic, you might want to plan to be outside midday. Warm, sunny, dry days are usually the ones with the greatest pollen.”
CSU’s Bonham said in Gunnison County the first things to go off are usually the junipers and cedars. The willow tree family is pollinating now. She said a big instigator of allergies is the Timothy grass on ranches. Expect that in the middle of July. And then the hay will get cut in August and more sneezing will ensue.
“It’s not just humans that can feel the impact of allergies,” said Bonham. “Dogs and cats can have reactions as well so keep an eye on them.”
And by the way, it just gets better if you believe the planet is warming up. Experts say global warming is making pollen seasons last longer, creating more ozone in the air, and even expanding the areas where insects flourish, putting more people with bee allergies at greater risk.
In the meantime, don’t rub your eyes, keep the Visine handy, and know that you will be able to breathe freely again sometime in August or September.

Check Also

Kebler Road still not ready for traffic

Crews struggling with weather…so maybe Memorial Day? By Katherine Nettles The continued inclement weather this …