Professor counts pollen hoping to help those with allergies

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - It's a season none of us enjoy allergy season is upon us. From the late winter to the historic flooding experts say chances are pollen counts will be extra high this year.

Tree pollen is one of the kick starters to allergy season, but to know how bad it'll be you have to know how much pollen there is.

For five days a week one Nebraska Wesleyan professor spends part of his day counting pollen.

The pollen collector sits on top of Olin Science Hall at Nebraska Wesleyan about three stories high.

"This spins in that collector and anything that's wind blown gets trapped," says Professor Dale Benham.

Benham has been teaching biology for 30 years, and he started counting pollen in 2003.

"On super bad days there'll be 1,000 to1,500 pollen grains in the air," says Benham.

After the rod gathers the pollen grains, Benham examine it under a microscope.

"You can see that it has kind of flaky surface to it." Benham.

The professor uses a special dye that will stick to the pollen surface making it purplish and separating it from other particles.

"all these other things are just dust essentially, so that's all the stuff you breathe in all the time,” says Benham.

Right now we're in the tree pollen season and pollen can be blown thousands of miles.

"Since we had strong winds Tuesday ash pollen could have been blown from the south from Oklahoma, Kansas maybe even Texas,” Benham.

Benham says he finds it fascinating watching the pollen under the microscope.
He hopes maybe he can help those who struggle with allergies.

"It's really good to know what is out, and if you're allergic to one pollen you can go to the website and get a sense or what's out there and maybe alter your behavior,” says Benham.

Pharmacies are also staying busy. Pharmacist Bryce Walker of Kohll's Pharmacy says they've seen many people come in so far this year for allergy medicine.
The main question people have is if and how to treat allergies.
Dr. Walker says the most popular item has been over the counter antihistamines.