If you suffer from an airborne allergy, being aware of the quality of the air you’re breathing can be crucial to finding relief, as those tiny particles that we can’t see often have the most significant impact on our health. The good news? The technology for identifying airborne allergens is constantly advancing, making it easier than ever to measure the presence of irritants like pollen in the air around us.
With the surge of start-ups in the area, including our own pioneering Respiray, we’re seeing a revolution in personal allergy protection, including Wear A+, our wearable air purifier. As impressive as these advances are, if you’re anything like us you’re no doubt curious about how exactly we measure the allergens found in our air. If that sounds like you, get ready to be educated!
the science and technology of measuring airborne allergens
Airborne allergens are typically classified as pollen grains, mold spores, dust mites, pet dander or insect detritus. The art of measuring them accurately combines biology and chemistry with advanced technology.
Large area coverage approaches
These are mainly employed by national or regional monitoring networks to keep track of common allergens in the atmosphere.
This technology captures pollen and mold from the air using a sticky rod, which rotates at specific intervals. These rods are then examined under a microscope for identification and counting. The data gathered helps to predict the pollen count forecast for local regions.
Unlike Rotorod samplers, these samplers continuously draw in air. Pollen and spores are collected onto a sticky tape or liquid, which is then analyzed.
Thanks to recent technological advances, several room-based devices now allow owners to monitor the air quality inside their homes, including the levels of common airborne allergens.
Laser particle counters
These devices use laser beams to detect and count particles, such as dust mites and pet dander, in the air. Some of the more advanced ones can even differentiate between different types of pollen.
A recent innovation, these samplers both capture and identify biological particles found in the air. They can offer insights into mold spore and pollen concentrations.
processing the data: making sense of the findings
Once the data is collected using one of the methods outlined above, it must then undergo a rigorous process of analysis to ensure its accuracy.
Particularly in the case of large area coverage approaches, samples are studied under a microscope by experts, who differentiate and count the allergen particles.
For devices that provide real-time or near real-time data, algorithms are used to process the raw numbers, giving actionable insights, for example “high pollen alert.”
making the live allergen data available
Especially in the case of pollen counts, it’s important for people with allergies to be aware of the level of airborne allergens in their local area. Most national meteorological organizations, in collaboration with health departments, make regional allergen counts available through:
Regularly updated sites online provide daily or weekly pollen counts.
Mobile apps give users on-the-go pollen forecasts, often in conjunction with weather updates.
Additionally, many home devices now come with a mobile app, which can help homeowners monitor and manage their indoor air quality.
identifying allergens is the first step to controlling them
Airborne allergens, while invisible, have a very noticeable impact on many people’s lives. Thus, understanding the nature of these allergens, their concentration levels in various locations and the sources they arise from can make a world of difference.
From national monitoring systems to devices running in our living rooms, technology not only makes it easier to measure these allergens, but it also makes their management more actionable. As evidenced by Respiray Wear A+, our personal wearable air purifier, bringing together technology and healthcare can enable us to uncover a future in which we can all breathe easier, wherever we are.