The pollen count returns

Healthy Ozarks
5 min readMar 4, 2024

By: Mariel Delgado Cruz, Senior Laboratory Scientist at Springfield-Greene County Health

Each year, the lab at Springfield-Greene County Health (SGCHD) begins the pollen count near the start of March and ends the counting season after arrival of the first major frost.

The 2024 pollen count begins today, March 4.

How we collect pollen

To get a representative pollen count, the surrounding air is sampled throughout a 24-hour period. This is done using a machine called the Burkard Spore Trap (Burkard for short).

Burkard Spore Trap
Burkard Spore Trap.

The Burkard is made up of a wing and a vacuum. The wing allows the Burkard to spin around in a circle as the vacuum draws in air carrying aeroallergens, such as pollen and mold. The air is then sucked into a small slit that leads to a chamber with a wax coated wheel. The particles in the air stick to the wax on the wheel, and the wheel turns to make room for more particles flowing in from the air.

Every morning, the lab makes their way to the Burkard to take the wheel out. The wax tape on the wheel is put on a slide and prepared with a special type of stain which makes the pollen distinguishable. The slide is then examined under a microscope and the pollen is hand counted and categorized based on the morphology (defining characteristics of each pollen grain). Mold numbers are also counted from the same slide.

Based on those numbers and a little bit of math, the National Allergy Bureau’s (NAB) scale for interpreting pollen is used to classify the pollen and mold count as either low, moderate, high or very high. This count is then reported on the SGCHD website just before noon Monday through Friday.

2024 pollen update

Pollen is specific to the surrounding environment. If you keep up with historical pollen data from SGCHD, you may notice some slight deviations on this year’s count compared to previous years.

The Bengsch Building will be closed for necessary renovations during most of the 2024 pollen season. Because of this, the Burkard has been moved northeast to the roof of Busch Municipal Building. The Busch Building is located close to the Bengsch Building, but even a small change in location can affect pollen collection. Although changes in the overall count are not foreseen, you may notice slight changes in the individual types of grains observed and counted, if any changes are noted at all.

Map of City of Springfield Government Plaza
The new location for the Burkard during the 2024 pollen season.

Pollen throughout the season

As the seasons and weather change, so does the pollen count. This is because at different points of the year, different trees, flowers, plants and weeds produce pollen. Due to the seasonality of pollen, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends allergy sufferers work with their allergist or immunologist to track pollen numbers and identify triggers to avoid as the seasons and weather change.

In the spring, we see high numbers of trees pollinating. Summer most often produces a higher grass pollen count. Autumn is marked by high levels of ragweed pollen, which are often a culprit of fall allergies. In every season, dry and windy days can elevate allergy symptoms more than rainy days since pollen travels more easily through the air. Rainy days also affect the mold count. For example, we may report higher counts of ascospores (a type of fungus) after heavy rain or higher numbers of cladophores (a type of algae) during a dry spell.

Pictures of stained pollen grains from various plants. Source: AAAAI

Indoor allergens

Winter is a time that many people with pollen allergies can get some relief, as frost kills much of the vegetation that pollenates. If your allergies continue into the winter, you may consider mold or other indoor allergens as potential causes of those allergies.

According to AAAAI, dust mites are the most common indoor allergen, and they thrive in a moisture-rich environment. If you keep a humidifier at home, the AAAAI recommends keeping the humidity level in the home between 40 and 60 percent Humidifiers are a perfect environment for mold spores when not cleaned properly. It is recommended to clean and change the humidifier filter according to the manufacturer instructions.

For more information on managing allergies and pollen counting, visit the AAAAI or NAB websites. Check the SGCHD pollen count beginning March 4, 2024 at

Mariel Delgado Cruz holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Missouri State University. As the Senior Laboratory Scientist at Springfield Greene County Health (SGCHD,) She oversees the lab which processes tests for sexually transmitted infections and well-water, and provides the community with updated pollen counts during the pollen season. Mariel has been with the Health Department for 2 years, starting as a contract employee during the height of the Covid pandemic. While at Missouri State University, her research with intracellular trafficking involving the fission/GTPase protein VPS1 was published.