Tree, grass and weed pollens can cause allergy symptoms. National Jewish Health Allergist Flavia Hoyte, MD, explains the symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and how to manage pollen allergies.
Pollen allergies are a response from an allergic individual against pollen.
In terms of the pollen that causes pollen allergies, it’s generally the wind pollenated plants.
Trees will pollenate in the spring. Grasses will pollenate in the summer. Weeds will pollenate in the fall, and when the pollen is blowing around, that is when it can land in individuals’ noses, eyes and cause problems.
Symptoms of Pollen Allergies
The main symptoms of pollen allergies are going to be nasal symptoms and ocular symptoms.
So, in terms of the nose, pollen can cause nasal itchiness, sneezing, runny nose, post nasal drip, and nasal congestion.
And then in terms of the eyes, it will cause, generally, watery, itchy and/or red eyes.
In somebody with asthma, allergies can trigger asthma so when pollen when inhaled can actually trigger an asthma flare.
And similarly in somebody who is very allergic if they’re rolling around in the grass, when they’re grass allergic they can develop hives on their skin.
How to Diagnose Pollen Allergies
So important in the testing of pollen allergies is a clinical history so we will take a clinical history from patients finding out exactly when they have their symptoms and that can give us a big clue at least in terms of the different seasons that plants pollenate.
We have skin prick testing where a drop of a specific allergen is placed on the skin and poked through and we look for a response locally on the skin to suggest a patient might be allergic.
Similarly, we can do specific IGE testing which is a blood test looking for presence of the allergic antibody.
Treatment Options for Pollen Allergies
Treatment for pollen allergies generally starts with avoidance.
So, we don’t patients avoid an entire season outdoors, but we will tell them to look at pollen counts and maybe avoid the high pollen count days in terms of going out for their picnic in the park.
Also, when they get back home from those picnics, if they can’t avoid the pollen then really taking a shower, changing clothes, irrigating out the nose and getting the pollen out of there.
Similarly, in terms of medication, we have medications for the nose, so nasal sprays, some are over the counter, some of which are found by prescription only and similarly with oral medications as well.
And then of coarse there is allergy shots which is the closest thing we can to do to make you unallergic to a pollen.
Visit njhealth.org/allergy for tips on how to alleviate your pollen allergies.
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