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Allergies, asthma, and pollen

Reactive airway - pollen; Bronchial asthma - pollen; Triggers - pollen; Allergic rhinitis - pollen

In people who have sensitive airways, allergy and asthma symptoms can be triggered by breathing in substances called allergens, or triggers. It is important to know your triggers because avoiding them is your first step toward feeling better. Pollen is a common trigger.

Pollens

Pollen is a trigger for many people who have allergies and asthma. The types of pollens that are triggers vary from person to person and from region to region. Plants that may trigger hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and asthma include:

  • Some trees
  • Some grasses
  • Weeds
  • Ragweed

Watch the Weather and the Season

The amount of pollen in the air can affect whether you or your child has hay fever and asthma symptoms.

  • On hot, dry, windy days, more pollen is in the air.
  • On cool, rainy days, most pollen is washed to the ground.

Different plants produce pollen at different times of the year.

  • Most trees produce pollen in the spring.
  • Grasses usually produce pollen during the late spring and summer.
  • Ragweed and other late-blooming plants produce pollen during late summer and early fall.

When Pollen Levels are High

The weather report on TV or on the radio often has pollen count information. Or, you can look it up online. When pollen levels are high:

  • Stay indoors and keep doors and windows closed. Use an air conditioner if you have one.
  • Save outside activities for late afternoon or after a heavy rain. Avoid the outdoors between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  • DO NOT dry clothes outdoors. Pollen will stick to them.
  • Have someone who does not have asthma cut the grass. Or, wear a face mask if you must do it.

Keep grass cut short or replace your grass with a ground cover. Choose a ground cover that does not produce much pollen, such as Irish moss, bunch grass, or dichondra.

If you buy trees for your yard, look for tree types that will not make your allergies worse, such as:

  • Crape myrtle, dogwood, fig, fir, palm, pear, plum, redbud, and redwood trees
  • Female cultivars of ash, box elder, cottonwood, maple, palm, poplar or willow trees

References

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology website. Indoor allergens. www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/indoor-allergens. Accessed June 18, 2018.

Cipriani F, Calamelli E, Ricci G. Allergen avoidance in allergic asthma. Front Pediatr. 2017;5:103. PMCID: PMC5423906 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5423906.

Corren J, Baroody FM, Pawankar R. Allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. In: Adkinson NF Jr, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 42.

  • Allergies

    Animation

  •  

    Allergies - Animation

    Blooming flowers and blossoming trees are signs that spring has arrived. But for some people, those blossoms and blooms are also signs that allergy season is under way. And that means months of sniffling, sneezing, and runny eyes ahead. You may know that you have allergies as soon as you step outside on a spring day, eat peanuts, or pet your dog. Signs of an allergy may include trouble breathing, teary eyes, hives, itching, or vomiting after you come in contact with your allergy trigger. Your doctor can also do allergy tests to find out whether you're allergic, and what triggers your allergies. The most common type of allergy test is a skin test. The doctor puts a small amount of different allergy-causing substances under your skin. Then you wait for signs of a reaction, like swelling or redness. You might also have blood tests to check for chemicals that are related to allergies. So, how are allergies treated? There are a few medicines you can buy at your local drugstore or your doctor can prescribe to treat your allergies. Antihistamines prevent histamine chemicals from triggering allergy symptoms. Decongestants shrink swollen blood vessels throughout your body, including inside your nose, perhaps helping you breathe easier. Steroid drugs reduce swelling and inflammation. And Leukotriene inhibitors block the substances that trigger allergies. If your allergy is really bugging you, your doctor may give you allergy shots. When you take allergy shots over time, eventually they can help your body get used to the substance so you don't over-react to it in the future. Usually you can relieve allergies by taking medicine and avoiding whatever it is that triggers them. But in some people, allergies to insect stings or certain foods, like peanuts, cause a life-threatening reaction. This is called anaphylaxis. And if you have a life-threatening allergic reaction, call immediately for emergency medical help.

  • Allergies

    Animation

  •  

    Allergies - Animation

    Blooming flowers and blossoming trees are signs that spring has arrived. But for some people, those blossoms and blooms are also signs that allergy season is under way. And that means months of sniffling, sneezing, and runny eyes ahead. You may know that you have allergies as soon as you step outside on a spring day, eat peanuts, or pet your dog. Signs of an allergy may include trouble breathing, teary eyes, hives, itching, or vomiting after you come in contact with your allergy trigger. Your doctor can also do allergy tests to find out whether you're allergic, and what triggers your allergies. The most common type of allergy test is a skin test. The doctor puts a small amount of different allergy-causing substances under your skin. Then you wait for signs of a reaction, like swelling or redness. You might also have blood tests to check for chemicals that are related to allergies. So, how are allergies treated? There are a few medicines you can buy at your local drugstore or your doctor can prescribe to treat your allergies. Antihistamines prevent histamine chemicals from triggering allergy symptoms. Decongestants shrink swollen blood vessels throughout your body, including inside your nose, perhaps helping you breathe easier. Steroid drugs reduce swelling and inflammation. And Leukotriene inhibitors block the substances that trigger allergies. If your allergy is really bugging you, your doctor may give you allergy shots. When you take allergy shots over time, eventually they can help your body get used to the substance so you don't over-react to it in the future. Usually you can relieve allergies by taking medicine and avoiding whatever it is that triggers them. But in some people, allergies to insect stings or certain foods, like peanuts, cause a life-threatening reaction. This is called anaphylaxis. And if you have a life-threatening allergic reaction, call immediately for emergency medical help.

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    Review Date: 5/20/2018

    Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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