By Heidi Glaus


It is a number that can make you down right miserable. Not unlucky 13, but rather the allergy index, a figure Wayne Wilhelm and his staff at Environmental Health Laboratories have to take extra steps to come up with.

"So this is the star, it's called the Burkhard spore trap and it runs continuously for 24 hours. The pollen and mold and everything else that's in the air is drawn in through that slit," Wilhelm said.

Monday through Friday, a sample from the previous 24 hours is captured onto a greased slide where individual pollen grains and mold spores are carefully identified and counted under a microscope.

"They take that a put it into a mathematical formula," Wilhelm said.

Of course with a hard freeze the pollens disappear and we breathe a little easier, however, mold shows up daily even in the dead of winter.

"A lot of the brown particles those are all mold spores," Wilhelm said.

The results are a thumbnail sketch of what the entire St. Louis area is experiencing.

"It's not perfect, but it's the best we can do," Wilhelm said.

Hopefully it helps people prepare for the day.

"So they know whether to take medicine that day something over the counter, something prescription, avoid being outside in general," Wilhelm said.

And that's nothing to sneeze at.