Sniffling and coughing heard around town is just as likely to come from an allergy sufferer as a flu victim.
Allergic Verde Valley residents suffer from their symptoms most of the year, according to a local, board-certified ear, nose and throat specialist.
Dr. Howard Feldman, a Verde Valley resident for 32 years, is very familiar with the antigen-spewing plants and when they spring to life at various times during the year. He is a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy and the American Academy of Otolaryngology Surgery. Otolaryngology is the medical speciality that treats disorders of the ear, nose, throat, head and neck.
Right now, the culprit is oneseed juniper. A different type, the Utah juniper, begins pollinating in February. Both cause significant suffering, Feldman said.
In this area, plants are primarily pollinated by the airborne method, not by insects. The windy climate and open space matched a genetic mutation in the plants, selecting them to become prolific pollen generators.
“It has to do with the evolution of plant species. The more pollen you put out the better chance you have of pollinating other sex of your species.
“Wind-pollinated plants produce much more pollen than their insect-pollinated counterparts,” according to Arizona Cooperative Extension educational materials. “These wind-borne pollens are the culprits that irritate susceptible sinuses.”
The windy climate matched a genetic mutation that evolved in plants pollinated by the air.
“Plants have evolved,” Feldman said. “The more pollen they put out the better chance they have of pollinating the other sex of their species.”
“Some wind-borne pollen may rise to 40,000 feet and be carried more than 50 miles,” according to Northern Arizona Healthcare website.
The method of delivery means one thing for local allergy sufferers: year-round attacks.
“Our area is one of the very few in the world that produces a significant amount of pollen all year around,” Feldman said.
As for treatment, one size does not fit all. People endure allergies triggered by different antigens at different times of the year with all kinds of different symptoms, he said.
“Some people don’t seem to be affected by the juniper. Other people have more trouble in spring and fall. Others have more trouble in the wintertime,” Feldman said.
Feldman said his wife used to take a pollen count each week to determine the amount and type of pollen in the air at any given time. She no longer performs the study. Feldman no longer needs the count to know what is in the air.
Right now, juniper pollen is floating in the air. By spring the area gets more and more pollen from a wider variety of trees. Finally, by March and April,
the grass and weeds start kicking in.