13 March 2020

THE REAL POLLEN COUNT: Sneezing all the time? It could be your allergies acting up, and not a sign that you have the Covid-19 virus

Cities experiencing high pollen counts this week include Bloemfontein, Kimberley and Gauteng.

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 12 March:

Cape Town (Western Cape)

All pollen and mould types were low at this sampling site. Trees were low and were represented only by pine and waxberry. Weeds were similarly low and included the daisy family, goosefoot and Erica. Moulds were low.

Count: 5 (low) [Last week: 5 (low)]

Johannesburg (Gauteng)

Grass concentrations were moderate throughout this sampling week occurring >10 per day. Trees were very low and included the types: cypress, Pinus and eucalyptus. Weeds were similarly very low and only Chenopodiaceace (Goosefoot) and Asteraceae were detected.

Moulds were generally low, but some significant levels were detected for Alternaria.

Count: 31 (high) [Last week: 39 (high)]

Pretoria (Gauteng)

Grass concentrations were moderate to high throughout the week again occurring >10 per day.

Trees were low and included the types: eucalyptus, cypress, pine and mulberry. Low weed concentrations included: Chenopodiaceace (Goosefoot) and the daisy family. Moulds were generally low but occasional high counts for Alternaria were detected.

Count: 31 (high) [Last week: 25 (high)]

Bloemfontein (Orange Free State)

Grass pollen levels were consistently high to very high. Tree pollen was low and included olive, cypress, Buddleja, pine and rhus/Searsia. Weeds were low and the types identified were the daisy family and goosefoot. Moulds were low, excluding Alternaria, an allergenic spore.

The Alternaria levels were mostly high throughout this sampling week.

Count: 135 (very high) [Last week: 104 (very high)]

Kimberley (Northern Cape)

Grass levels were moderate to high throughout this sampling week. No tree pollen was detected and weed pollen levels were low, the types included the daisy family only.

Count: 58 (very high) [Last week: 79 (very high)]

Durban (KZN)

Grass levels were moderate, having increased since last week. Tree loads were also higher relative to the previous week, with birch and eucalyptus recorded. Weed levels were low and included low counts of ragweed. Moulds increased since last week

Count: 22 (high) [Last week: 13 (moderate)]

Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape)

Grass levels were low at this site. Tree levels were similarly low consisting of waxberry, gum and olive. Low weed levels were detected, and the types were the daisy family, goosefoot and ferns. Moulds were high as ascospores increased sharply at the end of the sampling week following rain.

Count: 6 (low) [Last week: 1 (very low)

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 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.

WATCH | What is pollen? An aerobiologist at UCT gives us an overview

WATCH | Can being 'too clean' cause allergies?

WATCH | Behind the scenes: How spore traps in SA are used to determine the pollen count

Image: Cecilie Arcurs, Getty


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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