If you’ve ever seen acorns scattered about a residential lawn – or countryside, for that matter – as the fall seasons approaches, then you intuitively know what pollen is. Much like trees cast off these acorns so that they can perhaps grow into trees later on down the line, many plants, weeds and grasses cast off pollen in order to reproduce. The grains are usually very small – microscopic, in fact – and so are carried great distances on a springtime breeze.
How Does Pollen Affect People?
The primary mechanism by which pollen in its natural state affects people is the size of the individual grains. Some trees cast off large grains of pollen that are sticky (usually, these are fruit-bearing trees), and these don’t generally cause allergic reactions. The large size restricts the ability of the wind to carry them far, and the stickiness tends to keep them rooted to the ground or other surface objects. The microscopic grains of pollen are the troublemakers for many humans; the breeze can carry them quite some distance from the progenitor, and they can get inside your body through your mouth and nose. Once inside, your immune system treats the pollen as an invasion and marshals a response to it. This is precisely what most allergies are; the following are the resulting symptoms of your body’s defense:
- Sneezing may be one of the most common causes to breathing in the fine powder that comprises pollen
- Runny or stuffy nose – general nasal congestion
- Watery eyes
- An allergic response can trigger a decrease in your ability to taste and smell food
- Sinus pressure
- Asthmatic reactions
- Hay fever
- Allergic rhinitis
Allergies to pollen can’t be cured – and the reason why makes sense when you think about it. After all, your body is actually trying to protect you from an alien invasion of very fine pollen grains. The origin is the immune system, itself, and it is conducting what would ordinarily be its most useful service. It simply doesn’t recognize that pollen is generally harmless; it simply “knows” that it shouldn’t be in your body and so takes steps to defend against it.
How Can You Fight Pollen-Induced Allergies?
Most health professionals agree that avoidance is the best measure when feasible. Plants such as ragweed, oak pollen and grass pollen are trying fertilize at the same time every year – sometime around late spring and very early fall. There are national broadcasts detailing days when you can expect high pollen counts; usually, the fine powder is in the air in the early to late morning hours. If you can avoid it, or protect your nose and mouth, then this will significantly reduce the chances that you trigger an immune response. Dry, windy days are when people who are susceptible to pollen allergies should try to stay indoors as much as possible. Invest in a dust mask if you must go outside, and make sure to close windows and doors to avoid letting in insects that carry pollen grains. If you are beset by allergy symptoms, then you can always see a doctor. Most are well aware of the range of allergens, and can refer you to a specialist if needed. Over-the-counter antihistamines work adequately well for many people, as well as decongestants to provide relief for symptoms. There are home remedies to help you avoid pollen altogether, such as HEPA filters, dehumidifiers and air conditioning. An allergy shot is always an option as the season for plant fertilization nears; these tend to do a great job of dampening your immune response to pollen.