Pollen Allergy: Symptoms, Treatments and Preventions

picture of pollen bee

Pollen is a fine to coarse powdery substance comprising pollen grains which are male microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce male gametes (sperm cells). Pollen grains have a hard coat made of sporopollenin that protects the gametophytes during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the female cone of coniferous plants. If pollen lands on a compatible pistil or female cone, it germinates, producing a pollen tube that transfers the sperm to the ovule containing the female gametophyte. Individual pollen grains are small enough to require magnification to see detail. The study of pollen is called palynology and is highly useful in paleoecology, paleontology, archaeology, and forensics.

Pollen in plants is used for transferring haploid male genetic material from the anther of a single flower to the stigma of another in cross-pollination. In a case of self-pollination, this process takes place from the anther of a flower to the stigma of the same flower.

How do pollen and mold affect allergies and asthma?

Pollen and mold spores in the air enter the nose and throat. They can cause allergy and asthma symptoms in people who are allergic to them.

An allergy occurs when you react to things like pollen and mold that don’t affect most people. If you come into contact with something you are allergic to (called an allergen), you may have symptoms. This is called an allergic reaction.

Asthma is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe at times. When people with asthma come into contact with something they are allergic or sensitive to, their airways become narrower. That makes it harder for air to get to their lungs. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing (a whistling sound when a person breathes) and a feeling of tightness in the chest.

What are the symptoms of pollen and mold allergies?

The symptoms of mold and pollen allergies include sneezing; runny or stuffy nose; itchy throat or inside of ears; hives; swollen eyelids and itchy eyes; and coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing.

How to Avoid Pollen

Pollen doesn’t mean to bug you. It’s there to help plants reproduce. But if you inhale it, it can cause allergy symptoms such as:

  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy throat
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarse voice
  • It’s a lot like a cold, and you usually get it like clockwork when those pollen-making plants start to bloom.

    If you have to be outside, try these tips:

    • Check pollen counts before you plan outdoor activities.
    • Limit how much time you spend outside during the morning or midday, when pollen counts are at their highest.
    • Wear sunglasses to keep it out of your eyes.
    • Have someone else mow your grass. Don’t rake leaves during pollen season. And if you must do yard work, wear a mask.
    • Going on vacation? Look for a place where pollen is low, such as the beach.
    • Change your clothing when you come indoors. Shower and wash your hair first.

    5 Ways to Keep Pollen Out of Your Home

    • Close your windows and outside doors.
    • Don’t use window or attic fans during pollen season. Use air-conditioning instead.
    • Roll up your car windows when driving.
    • Dry clothing and bedding in the dryer. Don’t hang them outside.
    • Remember that pets can bring in pollen on their fur, too. Don’t allow pets that spend time outdoors in your bedroom.

    Treating Pollen Allergies

    You’re already doing your best to avoid pollen, but you still might need medication to ease your seasonal allergies. A few types can help.

    Check with your doctor before you start taking any of these medicines, even if you don’t need a prescription. That way, your doctor can make sure you’re taking what you need and watch for any side effects.

    Nasal Steroids

    These are drugs you spray into your nose. They relieve congestion, a runny or itchy nose, sneezing, and other symptoms.

    Some steroid sprays require a doctor’s prescription, but two of them, fluticasone (Flonase) and triamcinolone (Nasacort), do not. It’s best to start using them before pollen season begins and to keep taking them as long as it lasts. It may take up to a week before your symptoms get better.

    Antihistamines

    These drugs work against the chemical histamine. Your body makes histamine during an allergic reaction, and it causes the symptoms that make you miserable.

    Antihistamines are available in pills and nasal sprays. The pills target itching, sneezing, and runny nose. The nasal sprays work on congestion, an itchy or runny nose, and postnasal drip.

    Some over-the-counter pills can fight your symptoms for longer. Be careful, as they can also make you drowsy:

    • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
    • Desloratadine (Clarinex)
    • Fexofenadine (Allegra)
    • Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin)

    Others can make you feel drowsy, such as:

    • Brompheniramine (Dimetapp Allergy, Nasahist B)
    • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)
    • Clemastine (Tavist)
    • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

    You’ll need a prescription to get other types of antihistamines in a nasal spray, including

    • Azelastine  (Astelin)
    • Azelastine/Fluticasone (Dymista)
    • Olopatadine (Patanase)

    Decongestants

    These drugs unclog your stuffy nose. You can take some types as pills or liquids, like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. Others come in a nasal spray, like oxymetazoline and phenylephrine.

    Don’t use the decongestant nasal sprays for more than 3 days in a row, or you might get rebound congestion, which means you get congested all over again.

    Remember that decongestants can also cause problems, including increased heart rate and blood pressure. If you have heart problems or high blood pressure, you shouldn’t take them. If you have a prostate problem that makes it hard to urinate, these drugs can make it worse. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first to see if a decongestant will work for you.

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