DIY Air Sampling for Pollen and Spores!

a microscope slide placed on a reading glass cover.

Air sampling at my own home and in my neighborhood has been immensely helpful for me to manage my allergies. In fact, I share the results of my air sampling for the benefit of all allergy sufferers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

However, when I travel, I have often felt helpless in determining what offending allergens are in the air. I remember once traveling to NYC in December and being hit by severe allergies.

And once I traveled to India and I had the worst possible rhinitis during the flight.

For regular air sampling at home, I use an Allergenco MK-3, which is compact and portable to take around the neighborhood for outdoor sampling.

Unfortunately, when it comes to taking it through the airports, its shape and design make it look like a rather suspicious package.

Therefore, I have never made an effort to actually take it with me through the airports.

But then came the opportunity, where I did not want to miss out on doing some air sampling while being abroad.

A black brick-sized air sampler with time controls
Air sampler to pollen and fungal spores.

During the first week of September 2018, I visited the beautiful city of Parma, Italy to attend the International Congress of Aerobiology.

I decided to carry a handful of greased slides with me, just in case, I got an opportunity to borrow an air sampler from the local participants of the congress.

When I could not find a loaner air sampler, I decided to get a little creative.

I created a DIY air sampler in the room I was staying at!

Basically, I used my spectacles cover as a stand for the greased slide and I put it in front of a large tower fan in my room, which was drawing air from an open window. I allowed the fan to blow air at the slide for a good twelve hours.

Mind you, the fan did not have any kind of filters so it was basically taking fresh air from outside and blowing it straight onto the slide. I hoped this will do the trick and the greased slide would catch some pollen and spores.

a tower fan and greased slide on reading glasses pyramid cover
A makeshift DIY air sampling!

Once I got back home to California, I stained the slide and, voila! I was able to see a diverse set of pollen and fungal spores on the slides.

Although one could not derive the standardized air concentrations of air spora using this kind of DIY air sampling, it still confirms the presence of certain specific pollen and spores in the air. Enjoy the library of photos below to see pollen and spores found in Parma during early September of 2018!

Sudhir Setia

Sudhir is certified by the National Allergy Bureau (NAB) as a pollen counter and identifier. He has been living with Hay Fever for nearly 30 years and studies allergens at his aerobiology lab.

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