What are Pollen Allergies?
Pollen is made up of tiny particles which are released by plants and trees as part of their reproductive cycle. It is an extremely fine powder and is spread by insects and the wind. Here we are going to briefly discuss about pollen allergies.
Pollen can cause significant irritation and inflammation in people who are allergic to it. Pollen can be inhaled by humans and animals. For those with an allergy, pollen triggers the antibody immunoglobulin E, which creates mucus and leads to symptoms such as congestion and sneezing.
What Causes Allergies?
Any substance that triggers an allergic reaction is called an allergen. An allergy develops when your body’s immune system reacts to an allergen as though it is a threat. It produces antibodies to fight off the allergen.
The next time you come into contact with the allergen, your body ‘remembers’ and produces more antibodies. This causes the release of chemicals in your body, leading to an allergic reaction.
As the spring months approach, certain allergies start to cause more problems, such as allergies to flowers pollen, grass pollen, tree moulds and fungi. Summer allergies start to pick up around March due to the variety of allergens in the air – such a pollen and spores.
The drier days help them remain in the atmosphere longer. You will usually get itchy and runny eyes, a runny nose and inflamed, swollen sinuses.
Breathing through your nose can be difficult too, and you might have a cough. If you have asthma, your asthma symptoms might get worse if you have an allergic reaction.
Sometimes asthma symptoms, such as a tight chest, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing, only occur when you have an allergic reaction.
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is the most common name for the pollen allergies. It is most commonly caused by grass pollens, although other pollens can also trigger the symptoms. The symptoms are caused when the immune system reacts to pollen in the body to produce histamine and other chemicals.
Around two in every ten people have this allergy and it is thought that more than 10 million people in Britain suffer with hay fever. You are more likely to suffer from hay fever if you have a family history of allergies, or if you suffer from asthma or eczema. Most people develop hay fever in childhood or when are teenagers, although it can be triggered at any age. Many people find, however, that they grow out of the condition and suffer less from the symptoms of hay fever as an adult.
Hay fever symptoms can include frequent sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy eyes and an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears. As a sufferer, you may also experience the loss of your sense of smell, facial pain, sweating and headaches – although these symptoms are less common. Asthma sufferers may find that their symptoms get worse when suffering from hay fever and may experience a tight chest, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
Different Types of Pollen
Depending on the time of year, the type of pollen in the air will be different. There are around thirty different types of pollen that cause hay fever and it is possible to be allergic to more than one type. Most people are allergic to grass pollen, which is common in late spring and early summer. Tree pollen tends to be released during spring and affects around 25% of people. Weed pollen can be released at any time from the early spring to the late autumn.
Hay Fever Symptoms
Hay fever symptoms usually appear when the pollen count, which is a measure of the number of grains of pollen in one cubic meter of air, exceeds 50. The weather conditions affect how much pollen is released and spread around. On humid and windy days, pollen spreads easily but on rainy days, pollen can be cleared from the air. On sunny days, the pollen count is highest in the early evening and that’s when you are most likely to suffer from hay fever symptoms.
Treatment for Hay Fever
Although there is currently no cure for hay fever, most people are able to relieve their symptoms with treatment. The most effective way to prevent hay fever is to avoid exposure to pollen but this is almost impossible, particularly during the summer months. Instead, many people rely on antihistamines, which can prevent the allergic reaction from happening, and corticosteroids, which reduce any inflammation and swelling caused by the pollen allergy. Eye drops can also help. Over-the-counter treatments should be sufficient to ease your hay fever symptoms, but if you are experiencing more severe symptoms, you should speak to your GP.
Tips on coping summer allergies
- Be aware of what triggers your allergy and when it’s likely to be a problem.
- Find out the remedies which help you best (such as antihistamines and nasal sprays) and keep them with you.
- Check when you should start taking your remedy.
- Sometimes a little petroleum jelly inside your nostrils can stop some of the allergens reaching the lining inside your nose.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses when outdoors to keep pollen allergens out of your eyes.
- Wash your clothes and hair more regularly, as this will help to get rid of the pollen.
- Also, keep your home clean and use a damp duster to stop pollens moving about your home to avoid pollen allergies.
- Furthermore, avoid open, grassy spaces if possible and keep windows shut – at home and in the car.