It's that time of year again when everything is dusted with the golden powdery substance called pollen.  It's everywhere you look on cars, sidewalks, streets, porches, or coated on anything outside.  Grains of pollen come from flowers, trees, grass, weeds, and plants and is typically transported by the wind.  It can travel long distances in the air, and is thought to be the worst between the hours of 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.  Pollen that is transported by bees and other insects typically do not cause allergies. While it is a necessary course of nature it wreaks havoc on the body, and some worse than others. 

Millions of people are allergic to pollen.  High pollen count areas cause symptoms to flare up.  In the United States, the lower eastern portion usually has the highest count.  Pollen counts are determined by placing a glass slide with one side coated in oil outside for 24 hours.  Then using a microscope the pollen grains are counted.  Allergies take place when the body is sensitive to an outside substance, causing the defense system to work harder.  It is estimated that one out of every ten Americans suffer from pollen allergies.  Most of the time pollen allergies only flare up during certain times of the year.  If you have constant symptoms all year long then you are probably allergic to something in your home instead of pollen. 

Symptoms of pollen allergy include:


Watery eyes

Nasal Congestion

Runny nose

Itchy throat

Other symptoms may include coughing, sore throat, headache, facial pain, wheezing, snoring, fatigue, irritability,post nasal drip, otitis media, sinusitis, and nose bleeds.

For people who have asthma, pollen can make it worse, which can lead to sinus or ear infections.  The nose filters air to clean it before it reaches your lungs.  The hairs in the nose trap foreign particles.  If large quantities are present, the blood vessels inside the nose dilate to block entry.  This is why people who are sensitive to pollen show symptoms.  Hay fever can also occur, along with excessive amounts of mucus.  The eyes work kind of like the nose.  The eyelids trap allergens to keep them from getting into your eyes.  When the air is dry and it is windy, there are more allergens.  But when it rains there are less and you can breathe easier.

Some precautions you can take to ease pollen allergies is to limit your exposure.  You can do this by keeping doors and windows shut and using the air conditioner.  If you have to be outside, wear sunglasses to help keep pollen from getting into your eyes.  When you come inside you should immediately rinse pollen from your hair and body and change clothing.  Don't hang clothes outside to dry.  Keep house hold pets inside as much as possible because they can transfer pollen inside the home on their fur.  If you have to mow the lawn, wear a mask.  Sometimes using a humidifier inside the home will help, or use a hepa filter.  Stop smoking, because when you smoke your respiratory tract is already irritated and pollen will just make it even worse.  Practice relaxation techniques, because studies show that stress increases symptoms.  Cutting down on alcohol consumption will also help relieve allergies, and increase vitamin C.

Certain foods also contribute to pollen allergies.  If you are allergic to grass pollens, you should avoid oranges, tomatoes, melons, and figs.  If you are allergic to weed pollens, don't eat bananas, cantaloupe, cucumber, melons, zucchini, artichoke, or teas made from Echinacea, chamomile, or hibiscus.  Other foods that might trigger pollen allergies are apples, almonds, cherries, strawberries, and celery.  Symptoms tend to appear within thirty minutes of eating.  Drink plenty of water, exercise, and rest.  Anti oxidants are sometimes beneficial when dealing with pollen allergies.

If symptoms do not improve or worsen, then you may need medication.  There are several methods of treating pollen allergies.  Nasal corticosteroids are anti inflammatory sprays which are sprayed inside the nose to relieve symptoms.  Antihistamines are typically sold in oral form, but a few are available in nasal spray.  These can be bought over the counter or prescribed by your doctor.  Commonly used medication includes Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra.  Decongestants are also available over the counter or by prescription.  They can be used alone or with antihistamines.   Common medications are Claritin-D, Zyrtec-D, and Allegra-D.  There are also nonsteroid anti inflammatory nasal sprays that can be bought over the counter such as NasalCrom.  

For people who would rather use a natural alternative, whole mangosteen fruit made into juice is helpful in fighting allergies.  It is considered to be a natural antihistamine and contains more than 40 xanthones.

One study shown that people who ate foods high in omega 3 fatty acids had the fewest allergies.  This can be found in foods such as salmon, tuna, and walnuts.  Supplements can also be purchased in most health food stores.

500 mg of butterbur per day can relieve allergies.  Goldenseal stimulates the immune system and is believed to also relieve allergies.

Plain saline and salt water sprays are cheap and sufficient in rinsing pollen out of the nasal cavity.

Boil hot water and place eucalyptus leaves in the pot.  Turn off the heat and place a towel around your head covering the pot and inhale the steam.  This will help clogged up symptoms drain and clear up.

Allergy shots are also another option available.  People are injected with small amounts of allergens that are gradually increased over time to build up the body's immune system. 

Always be sure to discuss medication with your doctor, especially if you are on medication for other problems.  Some allergy medication can cause negative reactions with other meds.

There are two types of testing that determine what type of pollen you are allergic to.  The first is a blood test, which measures IgE antibodies in the blood and is tested for each type.  The second is a skin test, and is most commonly done.  Different allergens are put beneath the skin to determine which causes symptoms.