UNDER SIEGE: Record Breaking Pollen

UNDER SIEGE: Record Breaking Pollen

 I’ve been fortunate that for most of my life I haven’t had to deal with environmental allergies. Food allergies, yes, by the gross, but usually spring presented no difficulties for me, let alone horrors. Until this year.
     When I look in the mirror I see red, weeping eyes, a red, peeling nose and the expression of someone reading the latest Stephen King horror novel.
     But maybe that’s not surprising, since Alaska has been struck by a freakish wave of pollen that is shattering world records. Fairbanks, alone, recorded pollen levels twenty times above what is considered high. (A count of 4,000 was recorded. Anything above a pollen count of 175 is considered high.)
     The experts are telling us that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, and they’re warning that “people without allergies will suffer, too.” We are told to expect a prolonged period of very high pollen readings.

  Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know this pollen wave would be statewide, rather than restricting itself to Up North as it usually does. Since I can’t drink the water out of our faucet (it’s rich in tannins and I’m tannin sensitive), I collect rainwater to drink.
     It wasn’t until after I turned into a faucet myself, particularly in the nose region, that I realized I’d imbibed a good amount of pollen with my water. The next day this was visibly obvious by the pollen scum that encircled the interior of the rainwater barrel. Now, although I live in one of the rainiest corners of the globe, I’m having gallon jugs of distilled water mailed out on a floatplane.

Allergy tips: My sister suffers from environmental allergies all the time, since she lives in Florida where something is always pollenating, and she’s found that drinking coffee can help. This sometimes helps me (though it’s a tannin, plus, if you have a sinus infection it will make the symptoms worse), and so does horseradish mustard.

 I can remember only one other year when we had extreme pollen, back in my early twenties. The pollen coated the beaches and our dogs became very sick. One of our older dogs died from it, and remembering that has made me try to keep my cat, Katya, inside as much as possible. As it is, she’s a mirror of my own misery, with streaming eyes and nose and constant kitty sneezes.
     The thing I remember most about that year was when we were in my dad’s thirty-two foot troller/workboat on a trip to Ketchikan to stock up on groceries. As we entered the final stretch of our journey, and were heading for one of the boat harbors to moor at, we saw the sky turn a strange, dirty yellow. To the north, behind us and heading our way, was a wall of this dirty yellow fog that obscured everything, like a desert sandstorm.
     We barely made it into the harbor and tied up when the wall of pollen struck. We closed every door and porthole and waited it out, watching it move on down the Narrows. Neither my dad nor I was too badly affected, as I remember. Things have certainly changed.

 The curious thing is, I don’t remember this incident being announced as record breaking, so what we have now must be many times worse. And it’s true, I’ve never seen so much pollen speckling our decks or floating in a swirling scum on the waters that our floathouses rest on.
    The constant allergies and sinus issues have taken it out of all of us–two-legged and four-legged allergy sufferers alike–and we’re hoping it’s over with soon. All we can do is hunker down and wait it out.


5/18/2016 01:15:52 pm

My sister just told me that she’s just found two more things that do wonders for her allergies. When they’re extreme she’s found that acupuncture relieves all of her symptoms for a while. For daily needs she uses a Chinese herbal combination called Pe Min Kan Wan, Plum Flower.


The Middle Sisterlink

5/19/2016 05:16:26 am

Oh, Tara, you do have our sympathies. I started suffering from airborne allergens in my mid-30s, but this spring has been the worst ever — and we are diagonally across the country from you and, like your sister, in the land of something-always-blooming. And on a former commercial nursery, no less. This year, I have felt as though I were inhaling fiberglass — with every molecule slashing the lining of my mouth, nose, bronchial passages and lungs. My physicians and pharmacists tell me that those who have never suffered from airborne allergens have been sick this year. And it’s not over. I am now using an asthma-inhaler all the time, rather than just before exertion (to treat exercise-induced asthma rather than the real thing).

Sinus nasal rinses (my ENT recommends the NeilMed bottles, but any kind works) will wash the pollens out of nose and sinus cavaties, and that helps, too. Hope you soon feel relief!



5/19/2016 07:57:24 am

Sis, I’m so sorry to hear you’ve got this to deal with on top of your other health issues. We’re fortunate that–so far–once this bloom is over with we should be done for the year. You and my sister are the ones who really have it bad.

She said the acupuncture and Chinese herbs have made all the difference to her quality of life. And thanks for the reminder about rinsing the pollen away. I do this for Katya, but it’s a delicate operation requiring a lot of subtlty, skill, and possibly bandages. It’s amazing how sharp those claws are.

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