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Pollen Allergy

In the United States, pollen is one of the most common causes of allergies. Pollen is a very fine powder made by grasses, trees, flowers, and weeds to fertilize other plants of the same species. Lots of people have an adverse immune response when they breathe in pollen.

The immune system normally defends the body against harmful invaders to ward off illnesses. In people with pollen allergies, the immune system mistakenly identifies the harmless pollen as a dangerous intruder. It begins to produce chemicals to fight against pollen.

This is known as an allergic reaction and the specific type of pollen that causes it is known as an allergen. The reaction leads to numerous irritating symptoms such as:


For all allergies, the immune system reacts to specific allergy trigger molecules or also known as allergens. Your immune system makes antibodies that detect the allergen and cause inflammatory reactions and the release of a chemical called histamine. Histamine causes hay fever symptoms such as sneezing, itchy and watery nose, and eyes.

Risk Factors

The following increases your risk of developing pollen allergies:

  • Having a blood relative with allergies or asthma
  • Having atopic dermatitis 
  • Living or working in an environment that constantly exposes you to allergens such as animal dander or dust mites


Pollen allergy symptoms most often include:


Your doctor usually will diagnose a pollen allergy. But, they may refer you to an allergist for allergy testing to confirm the diagnosis. Make sure to tell them if the symptoms are always present or get better or worse at certain times of the year. To determine which allergen is causing your symptoms, the allergist will perform a skin prick test on you.

A small number of different allergens are injected into different areas of the skin by the allergist during the procedure. Within 15 to 20 minutes, you will develop redness, swelling, and itchiness if you are allergic to any of the substances. Also, you may notice a raised, circular area that resembles hives.


Reducing your exposure to pollens is one way to manage pollen allergies. A pollen count is published in the media and can help you plan for avoiding exposure.

  • Keep windows closed in your home and car.
  • Avoid picnics in parks or the country during the pollen season.
  • Stay indoors in the morning, if possible grass pollens mainly circulate in the morning.
  • Avoid mowing grass or wear a mask if you do, stay indoors when the grass is being mowed
  • Plant a low-allergy garden around your home especially near the windows of your home.


If you still experience symptoms despite taking these preventive measures, several over-the-counter medications may help:

  • Decongestants – Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) or Oxymetazoline (Afrin nasal spray)
  • Antihistamines – Cetirizine (Zyrtec) or Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Medications that combine an antihistamine and a decongestant, such as Actifed (Triprolidine and Pseudoephedrine) and Claritin-D (Loratadine and Pseudoephedrine)