NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Over the past several weeks, we've told you about the area's pollen count, but have you wondered how researchers figure it out?
FOX 8 tagged along with the pollen counting team at LSU Health New Orleans to find out.
"It's a very rigorous test and training," Dr. Michelle Korah-Sedgwick said.
A specially trained team is studying these tiny villains so they can share the load seven days a week, 365 a year to help protect you.
"We spent three days looking at a microscope," said Elizabeth Porretta, one of a team at the pollen counting station. "There's a centrifuge in here that's going to pull the air in through this little slit at a constant rate so we get even distribution over 24 hours."
A wind vane turns the collection point toward the wind.
"The dispersion of pollen differs by where the air is coming from," Poretta said. "If it's from the north, we get a lot of pine sometimes from the North Shore. From the south we may get more weeds, different swamp grasses and things like that."
Under a microscope the team identifies and literally counts what they find.
"Having an accurate day-to-day pollen count is really great because it's an accurate day-to-day assessment of the pollen counts rather than a predictor based on prior years," Korah-Sedgwick said. "Because this year we had a really mild winter, so we actually saw pollen much earlier than we would have."
Tree-pollination started mid-December of 2015.
Korah-Sedgwick said comparing the count with known allergies can help with other diagnoses.
"Chronic sinus infections, yeah. We can just chalk it up to allergies, but it actually could be an immune deficiency or some other issue," she said. "Knowing what's in the air and if it doesn't correlate with how you are feeling ,then that would be an indicator that it could be something else."
Not only is this work providing valuable daily information, it's creating a database for future research. With two years of daily results and counting, local information is available for studies across a range of topics from health to environment to development trends. LSU Health New Orleans Pollen Counting Station is the only site certified by the National Allergy Bureau between Houston and Birmingham.