Allergies Pollen

Each year in the summer, fall, and spring, millions of individuals suffer from what physicians refer to as seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as pollen allergies. Hay fever, as it’s more commonly termed, can cause seemingly endless sneezes, reddened eyes, coughing and a drippy nose. It’s enough to get you to stay indoors even on the nicest day.

About Pollen

Pollen consists of little particles that grass, weeds, and trees release to fertilize other plants. As they travel on air currents, these particles may enter our throats and noses. For those who are sensitive to pollen, these particles result in the runny noses, red eyes, and coughs symptomatic of hay fever.

Although some individuals complain of allergies to flowers, the most common problematic pollen producers are ordinary weeds. Among those weeds are ragweed, sagebrush and tumbleweed. Various grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda grass, and many common trees, such as oaks and elms, also produce pollen. Even though its nickname is “hay fever,” allergies to pollen typically do not come from hay, nor do they result in a fever.

Because pollen is related to a plant’s pollination period, pollen allergies are seasonal. One way to determine just how severe the pollen is: a pollen count, which often is provided during your local weather report. This number tells you the concentration of pollen in the air. You may not like cold, damp seasons, but the pollen count typically is lowest then. Those dry, hot, breezy days that so many love tend to contain the highest pollen counts. For that reason, spring, summer, and fall are the seasons most likely to produce pollen allergy symptoms.

Pollen Allergy Risk Factors and Causes

Just as with your weight, pollen allergies result from a combination of heredity and your environment. For example, if your Aunt Zoe and Uncle George share your sneezes and drippy nose every spring, and you live in an area abundant with ragweed, oak trees, and Bermuda grass, you are predisposed to a pollen allergy.

Although pollen allergy symptoms vary among sufferers, they may include:

  • a runny nose and nasal congestion
  • coughing, caused by postnasal drip from mucus
  • itchy eyes and nose
  • loss of taste and/or smell
  • reddened eyes that sometimes tear.

Treatment Options for Pollen Allergies

If you suffer from pollen allergies, it’s wise to prevent your allergic reactions as much as possible. Options include:

  • Staying inside if possible in the early morning until 10 a.m. If you enjoy walking or jogging, schedule your exercise later in the day, when pollen levels are lower.
  • Even though you may be tempted to “air out” your home or roll down your car windows, you’ll reduce your pollen exposure by keeping the windows closed.
  • Ask someone else to mow your lawn.
  • When you plan your garden or yard, choose options that do not produce as much pollen, such as dichondra, Irish moss, dogwood or plum trees.

To manage your pollen allergy symptoms, be sure to consult your health care provider before experimenting with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. If your doctor approves, you may want to try:

  • antihistamines
  • nasal sprays
  • saltwater rinses.

Prescription medications also are available, depending on the severity of your symptoms. If you wish to consult with your doctor about the possibility of a prescription to manage your symptoms, try keeping a journal or diary for a few days or a week. In it, list your symptoms, rate their severity on a scale of one to 10 (10 being the most severe), and describe what, if anything, seems to trigger your symptoms as well as what helps them. Be sure to include details on any OTC medications you are taking or have tried and your reaction to them.

Resources

eHow (n.d.). How to live with allergies to pollen. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the Ehow Web site http://www.ehow.com/how_3796_live-with-allergies.html.

MedicineNet (n.d.). Hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the MedicineNet Web site http://www.medicinenet.com/hay_fever/article.htm.

National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Pollen. Retrieved March 14, 2009, from the National Institutes of Health Web site http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/asthma/pollen.cfm.

WEGO Health (n.d.). Pollen allergy. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from the WEGO Health Web site: http://allergy.wegohealth.com/pollen-allergy.html.