Pollen Allergy: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

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a woman whose blow her nose because pollen allergy

1Overview

Pollen is found everywhere, from trees to grass and flowers. These are tiny particles that serve as a fertilizer for the plants, as the wind blows them it goes to different places and sometimes it ends up in residential areas. Pollens have a small structure that people can easily breathe in and that can cause trouble to some.

The immune system acts as the protection for the body in case a foreign body invades the system.  When the body detects antigens, it will send white blood cells and eventually triggers the inflammatory response. For the case of a person having an allergy, for example, pollen allergy, their immune system is hypersensitive and the response of the body is seen immediately as soon as the foreign body is detected. The inflammatory response will then takes place and the five cardinal signs will be present – Rubor which refers to redness, Calor or the heat felt on the skin,  Dolor or pain, tumor or swelling,
and the loss of function of the part where it is affected.

About half of the population in America has allergies to pollen, some of them happen annually or sometimes seasonal because of the type of pollen present on that specific month. Although this specific allergy is not a life-threatening event, it poses an effect that can affect the quality of life of the person.

2Symptoms

When the inflammatory response takes place, there is certain allergic reaction seen in the patient that can be mistaken as a common cold or flu-like symptoms. Some people who have an allergy to pollen experience different kinds of symptoms at a certain time of the year, these are called seasonal allergies. People experience these following symptoms:

A runny nose

When the person breathes in the pollen, the brain will now detect it and tries to get the pollen out resulting in mucous production.

Sneezing

This is also one of the response of the body to the allergen. Frequent sneezing is seen if the surroundings are full of pollen.

Watery eyes

Watery eyes occur when the pollen find their way to the eyes, the conjunctiva will also be affected and can cause redness and sometimes swelling is evident around the eyes.

Coughing

As the pollen makes way into the lower respiratory system, coughing will then be the next defense of the body against the allergen. Because of the soft muscles swelling, there might be wheezing that can be heard.

When the airway is affected, the mucosa or the lining of the throat gets irritated hence itchiness may be felt. Persons with asthma will also have a difficult time dealing with the allergy

3Causes

There are different types of pollen allergy which are categorized according to the season they are rampant. There are different types of plants that have pollen, some of them cause a seasonal allergy.

Oak Pollen allergy

During spring, Oak tree’s pollen stays longer in the air and can be swept by the wind. Having the person with an allergy to pollen specifically the pollen of the Oaktree will have problems dealing the reaction during these times.

Birch Pollen

Birch tree produces pollen also during the springtime, as the tree sheds off its pollens, it travels via air and sometimes via animals like bees. A tree like the Birch tree can produce four to five million pollens that can travel long distances from its origin.

Ragweed pollen allergy

The ragweed is present from July to October and produces pollens that can affect the person during these times. Some researchers also confirmed that ragweed pollens can survive during freezing months and can also travel distances.

Grass Pollen allergy

During summer, the grass can also produce pollens. Children and even adults go out to play and enjoy the sun thus many people who have an allergy to grass pollens demonstrate symptoms that are hard to be treated. According to studies, the grass pollen allergy is hard to treat but can be managed through immunotherapy or medications

Flower pollens

Although flower pollens is not a common allergy, people need to be in direct contact with the flower for them to have allergic reactions. Examples of flowers are:

  • Aster, it belongs to the family of Daisy
  • Baby’s breath is found in gardens
  • Daisies can produce many pollens and that can attract the bees, the bees that can transfer the pollen to a person in contact.
  • Chamomile, the type of flower has a pollen that can irritate even when it used as a tea.

4Diagnosis

An allergist can help you determine if you have an allergy to a specific item like food, animals, dust and also pollen.

The medical practitioner then will interview the patient for a complete medical history including family history of allergies, the Allergist then will perform tests that can help determine and differentiate if the patient has an allergy to pollen or an animal.

Blood test

A blood test can be used to determine the presence of immunoglobulin E in the blood,
This can indicate that there is an allergen present in the body causing the reactions noted on the patient.

Skin test

A skin test is an accurate test that can determine the specific allergen by pricking the skin with a sterile needle containing a small and controlled amount of a pollen serum on the skin. The diagnosis is made when a small patch of rash on the skin is present, it includes redness and itchiness on the skin.

5Treatment

Once the allergy is determined, there are several medications and home remedies that can be done to reduce and prevent the symptoms of the allergy.

Medications

Decongestants

Decongestants are given to reduce the inflammation in the mucosa in the nose and the sinuses, this can help the patient to breathe normally. It can be in the form of oral medication to nasal spray.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids can help reduce the inflammation on the skin and also the lining of the airway, commonly used in severe cases. There are several types of corticosteroids.

  • Oral medications can be used for generalized inflammation in the body, examples are methylprednisone and prednisone
  • Eye drops are used to reduce the inflammation and irritation in the eyes. There are some contraindications in using this type of steroid, for example, those who have eye problems that may affect the absorption of the drug. Examples of eye drops are Loteprednol and Fluorometholone.
  • Ointment or cream is used for the skin to treat some allergy-related inflammation, Betamethasone and Hydrocortisone are examples of cream.
  • And lastly, nasal spray, to address the inflammation inside the air passage, nasal spray can be used for faster relief of inflammation. Beclomethasone is an example of a nasal spray.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines inhibit the contact of the H1 and H2 receptors to histamines, a chemical that causes a reaction when there is an allergen present. The same as other drugs, antihistamines have several forms which can be a great help to target the specific area of the body which is affected.

  • Nasal Spray can help reduce the sneezing and itching episode. Adverse effects can be seen on the patient like drowsiness, advise the patient take precautions in doing activities of daily living and avoid driving or operate any machinery to avoid accidents.
  • Eye drops are used to treat the symptoms involving the eyes. Consult with your eye doctor before administering this medication on the eye. Just like the nasal drops, side effects of this drug may take place and special precaution is advised to the patient.

Desensitization

The desensitization of the pollen allergy can be done in moderation and a controlled environment. The allergist will perform this procedure using small doses of the allergen until the desired dose that the physician wants.

To prevent the occurrence of the allergy, some home remedies can help the person with this condition:

  • Have a mask with you all the time when going out. This can help reduce and filter the pollen when you breathe
  • Wash clothes immediately after using it especially when you used it when you went out. Avoid hanging your clothes outside to avoid the pollen stick on your clothes, instead use a dryer.
  • When at home, use an air filter to help reduce the pollens and even dust circulating the house.
  • Vacuum the carpet regularly and use HEPA filter.
  • Do not go outside frequently especially if you know that you have an allergy to pollens.
  • Have your medicines with you at all times and also take medications before going out to prevent the onset of the reaction.
  • When you have gardens, avoid going there. You can also close the windows of the house to avoid the airborne pollen to enter.
  • Avoid hiking or going into woods, certain pollens are present that can also trigger your immune system to react to the pollen present.
  • Minimize or avoid dusty places and also furry animals, this can also aid in the hypersensitivity of your body that can lead to other allergy reaction to different things aside from the pollen.