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Pollen Allergies

What Is A Pollen Allergy?

A pollen allergy is an adverse immune response to pollen grains. Pollen is found in various plants including grass, trees and weeds. When pollen is inhaled by allergic individuals it causes seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever.

Each plant species has its own pollinating period, which is relatively consistent from one year to the next. However, pollinating season may be different based on where you live. Since pollination is dependent upon how long the nights and days are, states in the northern U.S. experience a pollinating period a little later than the southern U.S. The weather also affects when and how much pollen is distributed.

You can check your local pollen count here to measure how much pollen is in the air.  Pollen counts are usually highest in the early morning on dry, warm, breezy days and lowest during wet, cold periods. Even though pollen counts are always changing and are really only estimates, they are helpful for advising you when it is best to stay indoors so that you can minimize your pollen exposure.

Pollen Allergy Symptoms

  • Sneezing
  • Irritation or itching of the nose, eyes, and throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Post nasal drip
  • Chest congestion
  • Wheezing
  • Allergic cough
  • Shortness of breath

Pollen allergies can be mild or severe, and they affect the upper respiratory tract seasonally or year-round. This means that most symptoms are related to the nose, throat, and airways.

Allergic individuals may also react to certain fruits, specifically plums, pears, and apples. This condition is called Food-Pollen Allergy Syndrome or Oral Allergy Syndrome. These cross-reactions involve itchiness of the throat and mouth. If you react to certain fruits, an allergist can test you for a pollen allergy to determine the relationship.

Pollen Allergy Diagnosis

An allergy test is the easiest way to diagnose a pollen allergy. At NY Allergy & Sinus Centers, we offer skin prick allergy tests to diagnose grass, tree, and ragweed pollen allergies among many others. An allergist will prick your skin with a small amount of the allergen and watch for a reaction. A positive result will show raised bumps on the skin accompanied by some itching. Results are produced within 15-20 minutes. 

If you suspect you have a pollen allergy, schedule an appointment at one of our allergy centers in NYC for a quick diagnosis. Don’t forget to stop taking antihistamines at least 48 hours before your appointment. This allows the allergy test to produce more accurate results. 

Pollen Allergy Treatment

Antihistamines are effective in treating mild pollen allergy symptoms. Many medications last for 24 hours at a time and start working within an hour or two. You can buy them over the counter or ask your doctor for a prescription. We suggest taking allergy medication the night before so you’ll be prepared for the high pollen counts in the morning.  

For those that suffer from pollen allergies year-round, immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is a treatment option. Allergy shots decrease symptoms over a period of time. The process desensitizes you to specific allergens that trigger an allergic reaction. Many patients begin to feel allergy relief within a few months of starting the treatment.

Tips For Dealing With Pollen Allergies

  • After you have spent time outdoors, take a quick shower to remove any pollen you may have accumulated on your skin or hair.
  • Spend more time indoors when pollen levels are high. You can check pollen counts online.
  • Don’t drive around with your windows down or leave the windows open in your house
  • Electrostatic filters may be more effective than standard air filters at trapping pollens.

Pollen Allergy Frequently Asked Questions

Are Pollen Allergies Genetic?

Researchers are still studying this question, but studies suggest that yes, a hereditary component is involved. Having a blood relative with allergies or asthma increases your risk of having one or more allergies — though the specific type is not passed down, just the increased odds.

Can I Be Allergic to Flowers?

Flowering plants are usually pollinated by bees, not the wind. This means that the flowers’ pollen – usually heavy and waxy – is unlikely to become airborne, and you are unlikely to inhale it and have an allergic reaction. Only gardeners, florists, and others that have long-term, close contact with flowers are likely to develop pollen allergy to flowers.

Do Tree Pollens Cross-react Among Themselves?

Tree pollens generally do not cross-react among themselves. Therefore, if you are allergic to one tree pollen, you are not necessarily allergic to another. Two types of trees are exempt from this rule: 1) the family that contains beech, oak, and birch, and 2) the one that contains cedar and juniper. If you are allergic to one of these trees, you will likely experience symptoms in at least one tree in the same family.

How Is Pollen Allergy Diagnosed?

The allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers diagnose pollen allergy with multiple allergy testing methods. We offer skin prick, intradermal, patch, and blood testing to accurately diagnose your allergies. 

How Is Pollen Allergy Treated?

You can treat pollen allergy symptoms with antihistamines. However, allergy shots are the best treatment for pollen allergy. These shots build your immunity to pollen and help you become less allergic to the allergen. 

What Are Some of the Most Common Allergenic Tree Pollens?

Some of the common allergenic tree pollen are ash, beech, birch, hickory, oak, poplar, sycamore, elm, and maple. We recommend getting an allergy test to determine which tree pollen you are allergic to. 

What Foods Should I Avoid If I Have Pollen Allergies?

If you are allergic to grass pollen, you should avoid oranges, tomatoes, melons, and figs. If your allergy is to weed pollen, then try avoiding bananas, zucchinis and cucumbers, melons, artichokes, and echinacea, chamomile, and hibiscus teas.

What Month Is Pollen the Highest?

March through June is when tree pollen is at its highest. June, July, and August is usually when grass pollen levels are high. August through the end of October is peak weed pollen season. 

When Is Pollinating Season?

Pollinating season varies by region, but it normally begins in early spring and can last until Fall.