Pollen is amongst the most prevalent cause of allergies in the US. Pollen is a fine powder produced by grass, flowers, weeds, and trees to fertilize other plants. Many people experience severe immune responses when they inhale pollen. Such people need to visit a Philadelphia ENT specialist to advise them on what to do when they get a pollen allergic reaction.
The function of the immune system is to defend your body against unsafe invaders, such as bacteria and viruses, to keep illness away. For people with foreign allergies, pollen is mistakenly identified as an intruder. The body starts to release chemicals to fight the intrusion. This is referred to as an allergic reaction, and the particular type of pollen causing this is called an allergen (healthline.com, 2020).
In addition, many people are unaware that pollen is not only what you breathe in. You can have an allergic reaction to foods that have pollen. In such a situation, the food is not the allergen but the pollen inside the food. This condition is referred to as oral allergy syndrome (American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, 2022).
Types of Pollen Causing Allergies
According to kleenex.co.uk, different plant species release pollen that triggers an allergic reaction. The most common include:
Birch Pollen: This is among the most common allergen during the spring. Birch pollen is released as tiny grains when trees bloom, where the wind disperses them. One birch tree can generate about 5 million pollen grains, which travel up to 100 yards from the tree.
Oak Pollen: Oak trees also release pollen into the air in springtime. Although oak pollen is not as severe as pollen released by other trees, it stays longer in the air. This can be a major cause of severe allergic reactions to pollen sufferers.
Grass Pollen: Grass is the most common pollen allergy trigger in the summer. It causes some of the most difficult-to-treat and severe symptoms. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology reports that allergy tablets and shots are highly effective in easing grass pollen allergy symptoms.
Ragweed Pollen: Ragweed plants are the primary cause of weed pollen allergy. Pollen sufferers are most affected in the months between late spring and fall. Depending on your location, ragweed can start to scatter pollen during the last week of July until mid-October. The pollen is driven by the wind, where it travels hundreds of miles and can survive through a mild winter.
Symptoms of Pollen Allergy
Pollen allergy symptoms include the following:
- Nasal congestion and runny nose
- Red, itchy, watery eyes
- Scratchy throat, the roof of mouth, nose
- Postnatal drip
Complications Associated with Pollen Allergy
Problems that result from pollen allergies include:
- Sinusitis: Continues sinus congestion from a pollen allergy increases your risk of sinusitis, which is an inflammation or infection of the membranes lining the sinuses.
- Asthma: Pollen allergies worsen asthma symptoms, such as wheezing and coughing.
- Poor Sleep: Symptoms of pollen allergy can keep the affected individual awake at night, leading to malaise and fatigue.
- Ear Infection: Pollen allergy is often associated with otitis media (middle ear infection) in children.
Diagnosing Pollen Allergy
Your primary healthcare provider can diagnose a pollen allergy. But, they may send you to an allergist to analyze your particular allergy. An allergist is a specialist in diagnosing and treating allergies.
First, the allergist will enquire about your medical history. They will then ask about your symptoms and the time they usually appear, and the period you’ve had them. Ensure that you inform them if you always have the signs or if they worsen at particular times during the year.
The next step is to conduct a skin prick test to establish the particular allergen responsible for your symptoms. This is done by pricking different skin areas and inserting a tiny amount of other allergens.
If your body is allergic to any allergens, the pricked area will develop itchiness, swelling, and redness within 15-20 minutes. You may also notice a raised round spot that looks similar to hives (healthline.com, 2022).
How to Prevent Pollen Allergies
According to mayoclinic.org, you can prevent pollen allergies by reducing your exposure to triggers
- Do not go out on windy, dry days. You can go about after rain as rain clears pollen from the air.
- Stay away from weed pulling, lawn mowing, and other gardening activities that disturb allergens.
- Avoid hanging your laundry outside as pollen sticks to towels and sheets.
- If you have to work from the outdoors, wear a pollen mask.
You can also prevent pollen allergies by being extra cautious during the pollen season.
- Check the internet, local newspaper, radio, or TV station for pollen forecasts
- If the media forecasts high pollen counts, take your allergy medication even before allergy symptoms manifest
- Close your windows and doors at night, and when pollen counts increase
- Avoid being active outdoors in the morning because the pollen count is high at that time
- Keep your indoors clean
You cannot eliminate allergens from your home, but you can improve indoor air quality through the following:
- Use air conditioning in the home
- Use high-efficiency filters in your HVAC system and follow routine maintenance schedules.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep your indoor air dry
- Ensure that you have a high-efficiency particulate air filter in your bedroom
- Use a vacuum containing a HEPA filter to clean your floors
Foods to Avoid for Pollen Sufferers
If you suffer from pollen allergies, you should avoid the foods listed below to avoid experiencing an allergic reaction (aaaai.org, 2022).
- Dairy: Milk products are disastrous to sinus infections, allergies, and other issues related to mucus. The reason is that dairy coagulates mucus, which worsens and makes drainage. So, if you must have cereal or have a cup of milk, opt for silk or almond milk.
- Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are great for optimum health, but despite this fact, you should avoid some of them if you suffer from pollen allergies. The most notorious vegetables for pollen sufferers are celery, artichokes, and zucchinis. If you must have these vegetables, thoroughly cook them, but never eat them raw.
- Fruits: Fruits such as oranges, berries, apples, strawberries, cherries, and melons, can exacerbate allergic reactions. It would be better to avoid these fruits completely, but ensure that you wash them thoroughly if you must have one.