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Interior Birch Pollen Breaks "World Record"

Debra K. Reeves (c) 2020 used with permission

This year’s abrupt green up sent a surge of birch pollen into the air in the Interior earlier this week.

"The readings this year have set historical highs.”

Dr. Tim Foote is an allergy and asthma specialist at the Tanana Valley Clinic in Fairbanks. Foote says the clinic has tracked pollen levels for 20 years, and


readings this week saw a world record birch pollen count.

"Popped out Monday at 7,045. Prior to that, the highest count that we had was back in 2016, at about 4,300.  The highest we can find in the literature, was from Copenhagen, Denmark, at 4,696 in 2014.” 

Foote points to last weekend’s 80 degree temperatures, which triggered birch buds to burst across the region, sending out a large volume of pollen all at once, into the atmosphere.

"The birch pollen goes 36,000 feet into the air, it goes into the jet stream. We've probably sent birch pollen all around the world from the subarctic region.”


Birch is just one of numerous Interior Alaska pollens, but Foote says it causes the most allergy problems.  

"The typical symptoms are itchy, watery eyes and nose, sneezing, and for some people, it with their worsens their athsma, some people even get a rash from the pollen on their skin with UV light exposure.”

Dr. Foote says birch pollen levels have dropped back since Monday’s high, to a more average of around 15 hundred grains per cubic meter. He says spruce pollen is coming next, but causes less allergy problems, and then grass pollen in July, which is another tough one for allergy sufferers.