Tree Pollen Allergies: Everything You Need To Know
Allergy season is on the way. In the southern regions of the United States it can be expected to arrive in the next week or so. Cooler climate zones may be spared for a bit longer. If you suffer with allergies, or think you may, now is the time to do your due diligence. For most of you, your allergy will result from tree pollen. However, we encourage you to seek the council of a board certified Allergist to confirm this. We will take you through everything you need to know about tree pollen, and how it provokes an immune response. Each spring, trees release tiny pollen grains to fertilize other trees of the same species. These pollen grains are carried through the air. As you can imagine, the chance that a pollen grain from one tree will successfully land on another of the exact same species is quite small. So, the plant has developed some strategies to overcome this. First, they release a lot of pollen. The more pollen grains the greater the chance one will fulfill its purpose. Second, the pollen grain is very durable. It is coated with a layer of a substance called cellulose. Cellulose is very strong, and permits the grain to persist for long periods of time. So, there is a lot of pollen in the air and it is built to last. Pollen will be most abundant on warm, windy days. When it is picked up by the wind and carried forth on air currents, you can inhale it as you breathe. Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis is the name for the response it provokes in your body. Rhinitis means inflammation of the nose. When the pollen enters the nasal passage it induces an immune response from your body to fight the invading substance. This immune response leads to the creation of mucus, which is intended to trap the pollen before it enters the lungs. However, this leads to runny nose, coughing, congestion, sneezing, sinus pressure headaches, and itchy eyes. All of which are very unpleasant to experience, and can be very problematic. Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate a seasonal allergy from the common cold. There are hundreds of cold viruses. Different viruses can be spread in different times and different places. However, seasonal allergies (tree pollen allergies) will appear at the same time each year. A cold may last two or three weeks, but an allergy will persist as long as the pollen in the air does. Treating allergies is difficult, but there are a number of common approaches.
- Antihistamines are taken by mouth or as a nasal spray. They can relieve sneezing and itching in the nose and eyes. They also soothe a runny nose and, to some extent, congestion.
- Decongestants are taken orally, as a nasal spray, or nasal drops. They help shrink the lining of the nasal passages which relieves congestion. They are meant to be taken short-term.
- Nasal corticosteroids are taken in nasal spray form. They reduce inflammation in the nose and block allergic reactions. They are the most effective medicine type for allergic rhinitis because they can reduce all symptoms, including nasal congestion. Nasal corticosteroids have a few side effects. They may also require a prescription.
- Leukotriene receptor antagonists block the action of important chemical messengers other than histamine that are involved in the allergic reactions.
- Cromolyn sodium is a nasal spray that blocks the release of chemicals that cause allergy symptoms, including histamine and leukotrienes. This medicine has few side effects, but must be taken four times a day.