14 February 2020

THE REAL POLLEN COUNT: A tale of two extremes

Inland grass concentrations continue to be an area of concern, particularly in Bloemfontein while Cape Town levels were down to zero.

Amid the highest recorded pollen counts in history, Health24 will be bringing you exclusive pollen count updates courtesy of the UCT Lung Institute's Allergy and Immunology Unit.

Here are the major city updates for 13 February:

Cape Town (Western Cape)

No grass pollen was detected. Tree pollen concentrations were low and included white stinkwood and pine. No weed pollen was detected. Moulds were low.

Count: 0 (very low) [Last week: 3 (low)]

Johannesburg (Gauteng)

Grasses increased to moderate levels. Trees were low and included: birch, eucalyptus, elm, cypress and oak. Weeds were also low and the daisy family and ferns were seen. Moulds were very low.

Count: 11 (moderate) [Last week: 22 (high)]

Kimberley (Northern Cape)

Grass levels declined probably in response to the rain (3mm on 5/2 and 50mm 6-7/2) and thunderstorms for the period 5-7 February. Tree levels were low and the types included white stinkwood, cypress and olive.

Weed levels were low and consisted of goosefoot and ragweed. Ragweed was seen for the first time at this site in very low numbers. The pollen could have been transported from a distant source. Moulds were low but increased after rain. One significant count was recorded for Alternaria. 

Count: 12 (moderate) [Last week: 33 (high)]

Durban (KZN)

Grass levels were moderate at this sampling site, despite the rain. Tree loads increased as acacia, birch and eucalyptus completed their flowering cycles. Weed levels were low but ragweed breached the significant threshold although this occurred on one day only. Mould counts were high.

Count: 24 (high) [Last week: 10 (moderate)]

Port Elizabeth

Grasses were low during this sampling week as were trees. Tree pollen types detected were yellowwood, African palm and eucalyptus. Weeds were also low and included Euphorbia and the daisy family. Mould were low.

Count: 1 (very low) [Last week: 2 (very low)]


Grass levels were very high during this sampling period with concentrations approaching 300 grains/cubic Metre/day on some days. Weeds were low and included English plantain, the daisy family and goosefoot.

Trees were also low and the types were: olive, buddleja, cypress, oak, white stinkwood, eucalyptus and searsis/rhus. Moulds were low.

Count: 114 (very high) [Last week: 79 (very high)]

See the full report HERE.

Reference ranges:

Overall, Trees, Grasses and Weeds all use the same values (grains per cubic metres of air).

Overall count is the daily average of pollen grains per cubic metres of air (trees plus grasses plus weeds)

In partnership with the UCT Lung Institute's Allergy and Immunology Unit.

As the pollen problem worsens, precise and expanded monitoring becomes even more essential. And here's how you can help.

Image: iStock


Ask the Expert

Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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