Do you experience wheezing and coughing when it is pollen season(spring and early summer)? Pollen is a substance that falls from the trees and while it is harmless, some people suffer allergies as they come in contact with pollen. As per Dr.Vaishali Bafna, Sr. Consultant, ENT, Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital, Pune this is a rare condition and only a few people suffer from this allergy. Pollen allergy is also called hay fever and seasonal allergic rhinitis as it is triggered in a particular season only. Depending upon the severity of the allergy, a person has prescribed treatment as in some critical cases, medicine alone isn’t enough to manage the condition. To know more about pollen allergy, its causes, symptoms and prevention tips, read this article to the end.
What is Pollen and Its Effects on Our Health?
Pollen is a yellow colored fine powder produced by trees, flowers, weed and grass to fertilize other plants of the same species. As much as it is important for plant growth, it has unpleasant effects on people who are allergic to pollen. Pollen is the trigger of one of the most common forms of allergy known as pollen allergy or hay fever. Researchers say that generally one out of five people in the world suffer from pollen allergy. Even though this allergy is uncommon, it can become severe in sensitive people.
Pollen allergy if developed is unlikely to go away however it can be controlled by taking proper medication including medicines, a healthy lifestyle and allergy shots. If someone is allergic to pollen, he/she can keep a close eye on pollen count and it is advisable for them to stay at home if the count is high. A pollen count is the number of pollen in the air, it is usually reported in the pollen season by local weather forecasts. Taking preventive steps can avert an allergic attack and its harmful health consequences.
What is allergic rhinitis?
Pollen Allergy is also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, pollen allergy is most commonly caused by grass whereas Ragweed is the main cause of pollen allergy caused by weeds Species of trees like oak, cedar, birch are also common sources of pollen allergy. Some people show the symptoms of pollen allergy throughout the year whereas others have them during a certain time of the year, depending on the type of pollen causing the allergy. When a human body is exposed to a foreign harmful invader, our immune system defends the body against these invaders to ward off illness. Pollen is a harmless invader however in people with pollen allergy when they breathe pollen the pollen releases water-soluble proteins on the respiratory lining. Their immune system recognizes these harmless proteins as harmful and dangerous invaders; thus it begins to produce chemicals to fight back the proteins produced. The body reacts to the threat by producing and releasing IgE antibodies. These IgE antibodies attach to most cells of the body to produce a chemical known as histamine.
Allergic Rhinitis Types and Symptoms
When histamine chemical is produced, a person shows symptoms like an itchy throat, red and watery eyes, running nose, sneezing and coughing. Hence, Histamine is the main cause of pollen allergy. Other common symptoms of pollen allergy are:
- Swollen eyes with bluish-colored skin under it
- Sinus pressure leading to facial pain
- Decreased sense of taste or smell
Some asthma patients might also find pollen allergy worsening their existing asthma with adverse symptoms like wheezing and endless coughing.
How is pollen allergy diagnosed?
If someone is showing the above-mentioned symptoms, he/she can visit a doctor to get himself/herself checked for pollen allergy. The doctor might recommend you to do allergy testing to determine what kind of pollen you are sensitive to. Upon finding the type, you can easily prevent coming in contact with that pollen and triggering an allergic reaction.
Tips to prevent pollen allergy
Home remedies, proper medical treatment and certain lifestyle changes can help in easing the symptoms of pollen allergy. Here are some simple tips to prevent pollen allergy by Dr. Bafna. If you are allergic to pollen, exercise these steps to ward off the risk of pollen allergy or seasonal allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
Avoiding the trees, flowers, grasses, and weeds that trigger your allergies is a good first step. You can do this by staying indoors when pollen levels are high, especially on windy days, or by wearing a dust mask to avoid breathing in the pollen.
Home remedies include:
- Nasal douching: using a neti pot to flush pollen from the nose
- Removing and washing any clothing that has been worn outside
- Drying clothes in a dryer rather than outside on a clothing line
- Using air conditioning in cars and homes
- Investing in a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or dehumidifier
- Vacuuming regularly with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter
Treatment for pollen allergy or hay fever
If you find out about your pollen allergy or seasonal allergic rhinitis, you must visit a doctor to get the right treatment done according to the condition. Some people have a milk allergy while some are super-allergic to pollen. Once you identify the category, it becomes easier to receive the treatment. Here are the possible treatment options for pollen allergy according to Dr. Vaishali Bafna:
- As histamine is the main cause of pollen allergy, people can take antihistamines like cetirizine, levocetirizine, loratadine, fexofenadine or bilazastine or to treat pollen allergy. They come in pill, liquid or nasal spray form that helps in relieving the sneezing and itching in the nose and eyes. You need to ask your doctor when to take these medicines. It is generally advised to start taking medicines a week before the beginning of the allergy season.
- Sublingual Immunotherapy: Medicine like decongestants, nasal corticosteroids, leukotriene receptor antagonists, cromolyn sodium, etc. are also helpful in treating pollen allergy.
- As approved by the Food and Drug Administration, these are under-the-tongue tablets that can be taken to treat pollen allergy caused by grass and ragweed. The under-the-tongue tablets containing the allergen are placed under the tongue for one to two minutes and then swallowing it. This is known as Sublingual Immunotherapy.
A potential alternative to Sublingual Immunotherapy is Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT), also known as allergy shots. This therapy helps desensitize the body to pollen. It has been a well-known treatment of pollen allergy for more than 100 years and is capable to give long-lasting relief from the allergy symptoms. Many people find complete relief from the symptoms with one to three years of starting Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT) whereas some people experience relief from the symptoms after many years after the Subcutaneous Immunotherapy stops.
As allergy cannot be cured it can only be treated with medications, people allergic to pollen should minimize their outdoor activities as much as possible especially during summer and spring. They must consult the doctor to find the best possible treatment to aid their condition and reduce the triggers. Hay fever is not a chronic condition but it is better to take the necessary steps towards its prevention. As long as you follow all the instructions given by the doctor, your health is protected. Be careful about allergens and you won’t suffer allergy anymore!
Read More Articles in Other Diseases