Pollen Allergies and What To Do About Them
If your nose is stuffed up or runny, you’ve been sneezing or wheezing, if your eyes are watery and your eyes and throat are itchy, welcome to spring. Our family practice doctors in Delray Beach see a number of patients this time of year because of the increase in pollen, and the many people who are allergic to it. So we wanted to explore this annoying condition and offer ways you can cope with it.
The pollen story
Pollen is the yellow powdery microspore produced by the male part of a flower (anther) used to fertilize the female part (stigma). It travels by means of wind, insects, or birds.
Pollen is one of the most common allergens in the United States, affecting some 25 million people. Because the grains are so fine, they travel easily and are readily inhaled. Then the body’s immune system mounts a defense against what it interprets as a harmful invader, producing an outpouring of histamine to counteract the trigger. The result, known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, produces a wave of uncomfortable symptoms:
- nasal congestion
- runny nose
- itchy, watery eyes
- sinus pressure, leading to facial pain
- scratchy throat
- decreased sense of taste or smell
- swollen, blue-tinged skin beneath the eyes
Symptoms are not serious unless they trigger an asthma attack in those with the disease.
Types of pollen allergies
The top pollens affecting Delray Beach at the moment are oak, bayberry, and grasses. Although our pollen counts are not as high as some other areas of the country, our patients are still experiencing a moderate level of reaction to these and other pollens.
There are many types of pollen, including those from trees, grasses, weeds, and flowers, and different people react differently to each of them. That’s why the pollen counts announced on weather reports, while helpful in a general sense, don’t necessarily reflect your body’s immune reactions. It all depends on your particular allergy.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, there are several ways to treat hay fever.
Over-the-counter (OTC) remedies include:
- nasal sprays
- oral antihistamines
- combination oral antihistamines and decongestants
- nasal irrigation, with an OTC saline spray or a neti pot
Medical treatments include:
- medications to block allergic reactions
- medications to ease symptoms
- skin tests to determine which pollen triggers the allergy
- allergy shots to overcome the allergy
How to protect yourself
Of course, the best treatment is to avoid exposing yourself to the pollen in the first place. Here are some suggestions:
- Stay indoors on dry, windy days.
- Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.
- Change clothing and shower after spending time outdoors.
- Keep windows closed, in the home and car.
- Don’t line-dry clothing or bedding.
- Wear a pollen mask if you need to work outdoors.
- Use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter.
- Use a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter in your bedroom.
Finally, if you know you’re allergic to a particular type of pollen, or that you begin having symptoms at a particular time of year, start taking your allergy medications before symptoms begin. And, if you’re having a difficult time with high pollen counts, be sure to contact our family doctors to help you find solutions.