Allergies Pollen Diagnosis

If you find yourself sneezing, itching, coughing, and achy when spring swings into full bloom, you may be allergic to pollen. 40 million Americans suffer from allergies every year. For those who are sensitive to pollen, it is important to get a diagnosis from a doctor or formally trained, board-certified allergist. This will provide medicines, treatment, and practices to reduce allergy symptoms and suffering.

Pollen Allergy Symptoms

Pollen interferes with the normal function of many vital organs, including the:

  • bronchioles
  • larynx
  • nose
  • throat
  • trachea.

When pollens irritate the nose, hay fever symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, and nasal discharge occur. The throat reacts to pollen by becoming itchy and scratchy, and the larynx becomes hoarse and voice loss can occur.

Other pollen allergy symptoms include:

  • allergic shiners (dark circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses)
  • fatigue
  • mental dullness
  • watering eyes.

Skin Tests and Blood Tests for an Allergy Diagnosis

Skin tests and blood tests can help to determine an individual’s allergens. Skin testing is the preferred method of allergy testing, because it is less expensive and provides results in 15 minutes, compared to blood test results which take a few weeks. Potential allergens are placed on the skin, such as:

  • foods
  • molds
  • pet dander
  • pollens.

The skin is then scratched or punctured to allow the allergen to react with the individual’s body. After 15 minutes, a positive skin test will produce a raised, red bump. A saline substance is used as a negative control, to ensure that the person is not reacting to the prick of a needle.

Blood testing, also known as RAST (radioallergosorbent testing), is more helpful when used to diagnose food allergies. Skin testing measures whether or not a person is allergic to the food, while blood testing takes it a step further by measuring the amount of allergic antibody to the food. A small amount of blood is taken and analyzed to determine the allergic reaction.

Treating a Pollen Allergy

As simple as it sounds, if you have a pollen allergy, it is crucial to avoid prolonged periods of time outdoors when the pollen level is high. After being outside, use a nasal rinse. This is a great way to wash out the pollen that lodges in nasal passages.

Also, experts recommend that you should invest in an air purifier for severe pollen allergies. HEPA compatible filters remove most of the pollen from the air in a home or office.

Over-the-counter medicines including Claritin, Zyrtec, and Mucinex can help relieve sneezing, itching, and coughing symptoms. Over-the-counter lozenges and hot tea can sooth an irritated, scratchy throat. Benadryl is also sometimes helpful, but should only be used at nighttime, as it usually causes drowsiness. If these medicines are not effective, a physician can prescribe antihistamines, corticosteroids, and cromolyn sodium to be used individually or in combination. Regularly dust at home, vacuum, change air filters, and keep good hygiene.

Resources

Fioravante, B. (n.d.). About pollen allergy. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the Allergy Escape Web site http://www.allergyescape.com/Pollen-Allergy.html.

Hatfield, Heather (2008). How to survive spring allergy season. Retrieved on March 15, 2009, from the WebMD Web site http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/how-to-survive-spring-allergies.