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Kraig W. Jacobson, M.D.

Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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Allergies, pollen and the Olympic Trials in Eugene

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The Olympic Trials are coming to Eugene for the fifth time in 40 years, June 22 through July 1. Please join Oak Street Medical and Oregon Allergy Associates as we prepare for the Trials and the “Best Team Ever,” which is this year’s theme. For 33 years, Oregon Allergy Associates has provided pollen counts and medical assistance to elite athletes during the Trials.

Who can forget the Olympic Trials of 2008, which were a stunning success. The plans for the 2012 Olympic Trials call for an even bigger and better event, but with the same asthma- and allergy-related challenges. Due to our high levels of grass pollen, particularly in June, allergies and asthma can greatly affect some athletes. Eugene’s grass pollen counts are more than ten times higher than what some of the competitors experience in their hometowns.

The effects of high pollen counts on allergic competitors
June 3, 2011, dubbed “Distance night in Eugene,” preceded the Prefontaine Classic last year. The final race of the night, the men's 10,000 meter, received considerable publicity with the late announcement that Americans Galen Rupp and Chris Solinsky were joining, making it arguably the greatest 10,000-meter race ever assembled to battle for the American record on American soil.

Due to erratic weather, no one could predict what would happen with the pollen count. Alberto Salazar, Rupp’s coach, requested that our research division perform a special pollen count because a sudden burst of pollen would be potentially disastrous for Rupp. Unfortunately, the pollen count jumped from 3 grass pollens per cubic meter in the morning to 162 per cubic meter by 7 p.m.

To the great disappointment of the crowd, local hero Galen Rupp was not among the competitors when the runners came out from underneath Hayward Field. No announcement was made prior to the race. But shortly afterward, Salazar explained that Rupp, who had warmed up and was in the athletes' area underneath the stadium, pulled out due to allergy concerns.

Could something have been done in this case of elite competition? Unfortunately, many of the agents used for allergies and asthma are either banned, require a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) and/or must clear the system 12 hours prior to the start of competition.

Avoiding problems with banned substances
Many elite athletes see us in advance to get a TUE to use certain approved medications during competition. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) along with the U.S. Anti-doping Agency (USADA) set standards and publish a list of prohibited substances yearly, especially in Olympic years.

We have to be up-to-date and informed on proper procedures to prevent a disqualification or a medal from being revoked. Some banned substances are found in over- the-counter medications, such as decongestants, nutritional supplements and skin creams.

Pollen counts for the Olympic Trials and our community
There is a broad base of medical support at the Olympic Trials, and we are proud to be part of it. Our allergy doctors are prepared to help both the seasoned and everyday athletes.

You can find the updated pollen count for Eugene at our website Oregon Allergy Associates.

Additionally, you can use your smart phone to access the pollen counts and the list of prohibited substances. Simply “bookmark” to your home screen and a special icon appears in each case. A double tap of this icon and you have the information at your fingertips!

Have fun at the Olympic Trials and enjoy the “Best Team Ever!”

Tagged in: Olympics Pollen

An energetic problem solver, Dr. Kraig Jacobson has spent his career treating patients and teaching about the complexities of allergy, asthma and immunology. He has practiced medicine in Eugene since 1979. The bigger the challenge, the more he enjoys his work.