A pollen allergy is an allergy to pollens, which are the tiny spores that plants release. Once released, the spores become airborne in their search to find other plants of their kind to reproduce. Unfortunately, some pollen never reaches its destination, and ends up in our noses. Some will develop an allergic reaction to this exposure. Symptoms of a pollen allergy include runny, itchy and congested nose, itchy eyes, and scratchy throat. Severe complications can include asthma or bronchial or sinus infections.
Pollen comes from many different types of plants, grasses and trees. Not all pollen is alike in causing allergies. In fact, flowers like roses are often thought of as producing a pollen allergy or hay fever. In reality, large flowers seldom produce allergies.
More likely, people suffering from a pollen allergy are allergic to pollen from trees and grasses. Not everyone is allergic to the same types of pollen, and some may be allergic to several types. Some grasses most associated with pollen allergy are Timothy grass, Bermuda grass, Kentucky blue grass, and Johnson grass. Trees that can provoke a pollen allergy include oak, ash, elm, elder and cedar.
Pollen usually releases in spring, and most of the time pollen counts are highest an hour after the sun rises. Windy days can also mean that more pollen is in the air, which can be particularly challenging for people with a severe pollen allergy.
Observing pollen counts published in local newspapers often becomes the way pollen allergy sufferers determine whether it is worth the potential allergic reaction to be outdoors. Pollen counts naturally drop as spring progresses, though some late pollen releasers may not be quite done releasing pollen until mid to late summer. Usually pollen is released in a bell curve fashion with about a month of very high pollen release, and then a gradually slow down of pollen production and release.
However, since not everyone is allergic to the same pollen, it is helpful to observe which pollens are most suspect in causing a pollen allergy. Some people see an allergist and undergo allergy testing, which can tell them the substances that are most likely to provoke allergies. They may also undergo allergy treatment, a series of shots that gradually desensitize one from certain allergens. This may take a great deal of time to complete and is not always successful.
Many treat a pollen allergy by taking antihistamines. New antihistamines like loratadine don’t make people feel as sleepy as older medications. Others may use steroid nasal sprays and eye drops to combat pollen allergy. Some people require asthma medication to get through pollen allergy season, in addition to allergy medications.
One of the most underestimated and inexpensive ways to help reduce a pollen allergy is through saline nasal rinsing. Especially if people spend some time outdoors when pollen count is high, using a nose rinse after arriving home can help wash out some of the pollen from the nose. Less pollen in the nose means less potential irritants. Another benefit is that nasal rinsing can also help cut down on sinus infections.