What is Pollen Allergy?

Pollen AllergyAn estimated 35 million people suffer from pollen allergies in America. Every year in early spring and summer, a fine to coarse sticky yellow green powder called pollen is released by trees, weeds and grasses. It carries the male gametes of seed plants. It is carried by the air, bees, birds and insects to other flowering plants where they germinate and start the process of giving birth to a new plant. The following article discusses about the pollen and the allergy caused by them.

What is pollen and How is pollen allergy caused?

Plants produce the microscopic round or oval grains called pollen in order to reproduce. In some species, the plant uses the pollen from its own flowers to fertilize itself. Other types must be cross-pollinated.

When these pollens or microgametes are airborne in search of a mate they enter the nasal passage and airways of humans and animals. Some individuals have a hypersensitivity to the protein in it. The body reacts adversely to the otherwise harmless protein and produces antibodies known as IgE. These antibodies react with the protein and bind with them. This results in the body producing histamine from the mast cells of the gut, skin and pharynx. Histamine is responsible for all the adverse allergic reactions in the body. It irritates nerve endings causing skin rashes. It dilates blood vessels causing inflammation etc.

Which plants cause the Allergy?

Mostly non flowering plants release these minute particles which are small, dry and light and can be carried by the wind for thousands of miles. Some of the weeds, grasses and trees responsible for causing allergies are as follows:

1. Weeds
• Ragweed
• Dandelion
• Sage Brush
• Redroot Pigweed
• Lamb’s Quarters
• Tumbleweed
• English Plantain

2. Grasses
• Bermuda Grass
• Redtop Grass
• Orchard Grass
• Sweet Vernal Grass

3.Trees
• Oak
• Ash
• Elm
• Hickory
• Pine
• Pecan
• Box Elder
• Mountain Cedar

Contrary to the popular belief, pollen from heavy scented flowers that cause less allergy than the above types of plants. Flowers may cause allergy only in cases of prolonged exposure.

Symptoms of Pollen Allergy

The allergy of pollen affects those who are sensitive to pollen. The symptoms vary from individual to individual. Allergies are mostly seasonal. The reactions can last for some hours or days. The symptoms include:

• Excessive sneezing
• Runny nose and nasal congestion
Angioedema as in swelling of face, mouth and eyes
• Red, itchy swollen eyes
• Watering eyes

• Allergic shiners (dark circles under the eyes caused by restricted blood flow near the sinuses)
• Skin rashes and red itchy welts appearing in clusters with defined edges as in Hives or Urticaria
• Hay fever

• The allergic reactions may result in inflammation of airways and can cause respiratory distress. Wheezing, shortness of breath can lead to anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency which can be caused by allergies
• Asthma may also develop from persistent respiratory symptoms

Treatment of Pollen Allergy

• The allergic reactions are most often treated with antihistamines. Antihistamines reduce the adverse reactions from the free flowing excess histamine in the blood stream.
• Over the counter decongestants can also provide a lot of relief. However, decongestants cannot be used over longer duration.
• A combination of decongestant and antihistamine can also treat symptoms effectively.
• In skin rashes and reactions, atopical ointments can provide a lot of relief.
• In extreme cases of anaphylaxis, an emergency shot of epinephrine may need to be administered.
Prevention of Pollen Allergy
• Avoiding it is the best idea.
• Look out for the pollen count of your area. Avoid going outside when the count is high.
• If the reactions are seasonal in nature, one can contemplate moving to any other area during the season when it is heavy in the air.
• Using pollen masks and glasses is a must for the allergy sufferers.
• It being sticky in nature can stick to clothes and hair when outside. Washing clothes and hair regularly can surely provide relief.
• Keep doors and windows closed and install a HEPA enabled air filter in the house to trap the allergens.
• Keep outdoor furniture and vehicle covered as it may stick to any open surface and cause allergies.
• Keep pets away from the room you sleep as they may have it stuck on their coat when they come from outside.
• Wet mop hardwood floors and steam clean wall to wall carpets regularly.
• Allergy shots or Immunotherapy, in which the individual is injected with large doses of the allergen itself to induce immunologic tolerance could be tried.

This is all about pollen allergy.