Pollen AllergyPollen is in the air everywhere around us, indoors as well as outside. The pollen count is especially high during the spring and summer, when large amounts of pollen float through the air to fertilize trees and flowers.
This can cause a lot of trouble for the one in seven, or 35 million, Americans who suffer from pollen allergies. It causes them to suffer symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose and watery eyes.
There are treatments to reduce these symptoms from pollen allergies, such as nasal sprays and antihistamines. It also helps to avoid pollen as much as possible.
Pollen CountThe pollen count for a day is the total amount of pollen in the air. The pollen levels are highest in the early morning, usually between 5am and 10am.
The pollen count is also higher during dry weather and during the spring and summer.
Pollen Allergy SymptomsPollen allergies lead to the symptoms of hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis). Hay fever can also be caused by other allergies though, so if you notice that your hay fever is bad all year round, instead of only during pollen seasons, then it could be caused by other things in your home such as mold and dust mites.
The symptoms pollen allergy causes are also similar to colds. You should be able to tell the difference between a cold and pollen allergy depending on the seasons though. Plus a cold usually doesn't last very long.
If you're allergic to pollen, then any pollen you breathe in will irritate the mucus membranes in your nose and sinuses. This causes your body to release histamine and mucus, which leads to congestion and inflammation. You may then experience symptoms such as:
- Watery eyes
- Nasal congestion - a blocked, stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Itchy throat
- Itchy nose
- Itchy mouth
- Itchy skin
- Sinus infections
- Ear infection
- Swollen, itchy eyes
- Sore throat
- Breathing difficulty
- Impaired sense of smell
- Impaired sense of taste
Pollen SourcesThe biggest producers of pollen are trees, weeds and grass. Pollen is the reproductive cells released by these plants.
Pollen SeasonThe most pollen is released during the spring, summer and fall. Trees release their pollen starting in the spring, whereas grass begin to pollinate during late spring and early summer. Weeds pollinate during late summer and also continue to pollinate through to late fall.
TreesMost of the pollen in the air comes from trees and ordinary looking plants, rather than from flowers. Pollen allergies from trees are worse during the spring, summer and fall seasons. The trees which most commonly cause people to suffer pollen allergies are:
- Box elder
- Mountain cedar
GrassThere are a small number of grasses which cause people to suffer pollen allergies, especially during late spring and early summer. Some of the species of allergenic grass are:
- Sweet vernal
- Red top
- Meadow Fescue
- Wild Oat
- Perrenial Rye
- Italian Rye
WeedsAllergies from weed pollen are usually worst from late summer to early fall. The biggest producer of allergenic pollen is ragweed. In fact, it is estimated that 75% of pollen allergies are caused by ragweed. Weeds which often cause pollen allergies are:
- Russian thistle
- Careless Weed
- False Ragweed
- English Plantain
- Marsh Elder
- Yellow Dock
- Lambs Quarter
Treatment for Pollen AllergyThe best treatment for pollen allergy is to avoid pollen as much as possible. However pollen is everywhere, even inside your home so you may need to take medications, as well as minimizing contact with pollen.
The medications for pollen allergies are the same as for other allergies, such as antihistamines, bronchodilators and corticosteroids. These are available from the chemist, some by prescription and some over the counter. The medications also come in oral or spray forms. You can also be given allergy shots, or immunotherapy, which will slowly increase your body's tolerance for pollen.
AntihistamineDuring an allergic reaction your immune system creates histamine. Taking anthistamines reduces the effects of histamine on your body. Antihistamines can be taken orally or as a spray. Some examples are:
- Allegra (fexofenadine)
- Astelin (azelastine) - nasal spray
- Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
- Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine)
- Clarinex (desloratadine) - prescription only
- Claritin (loratadine)
- Patanase (olopatadine) - nasal spray
- Zyrtec (cetirizine)
Nasal Corticosteroids or Nasal SpraysSpraying nasal corticosteroids into your nose helps to relieve a blocked nose, a runny nose, sneezing or other pollen allergy symptoms. You can also get nasal strips which work similarly. The relief from nasal sprays is long lasting and many brands only need to be taken once a day. Some examples of nasal sprays are:
DecongestantsDecongestants can be taken as a nasal spray or orally. They decrease nasal congestion and other allergic reactions so you can breathe easier. Some types of decongestants are:
Immunotherapy - Allergy ShotsAllergy shots, or immunotherapy, build up your body's resistance to pollen. A doctor or allergist will inject you with very small amounts of allergens. Gradually they will then increase the amount of allergens as your body builds up its immunity. Immunotherapy must be done long term though, often for around three to five years, before it can be stopped.
Tips for Preventing Pollen Allergy
- The pollen count is highest from 5am to 10am, so try to stay indoors as much as possible during this time.
- It's best to go outside as little as possible of course, but the best time to go outdoors is in the late afternoon or after a heavy rain.
- The worst days to be outside is when the weather is windy or very dry, as the pollen count is usually higher.
Close Your Windows and use HEPA Filters
- Try to keep your windows and doors closed to keep the pollen out of your home, especially during pollen season.
- Use air conditioning instead of opening up your home.
- It helps to filter the air in your home with HEPA air filters. You can buy stand alone HEPA air purifiers or use an air conditioner which is HEPA filtered.
- It's especially good to have a HEPA filter in your bedroom or another room you spend a lot of your time in.
- Vacuum your home often with a HEPA filtered vacuum. HEPA vacuums filter out the pollen so that it doesn't get blown out the vacuum's exhaust and back into the air.
- Your pets collect pollen on their fur so wash them often to get rid of it, especially if they have been outside. Also try to keep pets out of your bedroom.
- Pollen sticks to your body as well so shower often, especially after you have been outdoors.
- Wash your hair daily since your hair can collect a lot of pollen which can then end up collecting on your pillow.
- After you have been outside it helps to rinse your nose with saline spray.
Pollen Collects on Your Clothes
- Pollen collects on your clothes when you are outdoors so it's good to change your clothing once you come back inside.
- Pollen collects on clothes when you hang them outside so dry them inside in a clothes dryer instead.
Avoiding Pollen When Outdoors
- When you are outside, wearing sunglasses helps to stop as much pollen getting in your eyes.
- When you're driving in your car keep the windows rolled up and use the air conditioning instead.
- If you're going on holidays try to choose a place which has a low pollen count, such as the beach.
Maintaining Your Yard
- Have your grass mown often since keeping the grass short will mean it produces less pollen.
- Wear a mask when you mow the lawn or, better yet, get someone else to mow the grass for you, as it stirs up pollen.
- Raking leaves also stirs up pollen so try to avoid it during pollen season.
- Pull up weeds early before they start to produce pollen.
- Get rid of any allergenic plants around your yard.
- If you want to plant trees or other plants choose ones that don't produce a lot of pollen, for example: crape myrtle, dichondra, dogwood, Irish moss, palm trees, pear trees, redbud trees, and redwood trees.