With the changing seasons, plants release tiny pollen grains to fertilize other plants of the same species. The grains floating through the air this spring can also pollinate nasal passages and may lead to several uncomfortable symptoms.
THE PROBLEM WITH POLLEN
Seasonal allergies triggered by pollen from weeds, trees and grasses really take flight during spring. Allergies commonly manifest as rhinitis, which means inflammation of the nose. Seasonal allergic rhinitis is often called hay fever, even though symptoms don’t include fever and the reactions are not caused by exposure to hay.
If it’s not hay, what is it? Pollinating plants fertilize themselves through the spread of tiny pollen grains. These grains are designed to be carried by the wind to a nearby piece of grass, tree or weed. But that delivery method also makes those who suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis susceptible to a flare up just by taking a breath.
Common sources of pollen include ragweed, sagebrush, pigweed, birch, cedar, oak, grasses and trees. People with pollen allergies may have multiple symptoms, including sneezing, runny nose, increased mucus production, eye irritations and swelling of the eyes and sinuses.
A physician can use one of two tests to determine if you have seasonal allergic rhinitis. A skin prick test introduces the potential allergen to the skin to see if a reaction takes place. The second test is a blood test, where doctors draw blood and send it to a laboratory for analysis.
Use these tips to help prevent an allergic reaction to pollen:
Check a local news source for information about high-pollen days so you know when to activate your avoidance strategies. Not all spring days are created equal, pollen-wise.
Limit your outdoor activities when pollen counts are high. Bring your efforts inside when the pollen peaks. For example, if you’d planned to go for an outdoor run, find a treadmill instead.
Keep windows closed during active pollen days and make sure the air filters in your central air conditioning unit are replaced regularly.
Start taking a preventive over-the-counter (OTC) medication before the season begins. Consult with your doctor about what medication is right for you.
Bathe or shower before going to bed to remove pollen from your hair and keep it off your bedding.
Clean your bedding once a week and change out your bath towel more frequently.
Avoid using an outdoor drying line for clothes during high-pollen days.
Work out later in the day to avoid excess pollen. Flowering plants release pollen early in the day, so try a workout after lunch for less exposure to allergy-causing elements.
Take your shoes off after you walk through the door to avoid dragging the pollen you stepped in outside to every corner of your home.