Pollen exposure and you
Springtime is upon us, which means the flowers will be blooming and the temperature will be heating up, but for hayfever sufferers it can mean so much more including a constant runny nose, watery eyes and repeated sneezing attacks. For these people spring foreshadows the start of hayfever season when airborne pollens are at their peak.
What exactly is pollen?
Plants produce tiny powdery grains known as pollen to initiate reproductive processes with nearby plants of their species. Flowering plants such as wattle produce small amounts of pollen that are distributed by birds or bees from one plant to another.1 Other plants including pasture grasses and weeds rely on the wind to disperse their pollen.1 The latter are the main culprits of seasonal hayfever symptoms as they are produced in considerable quantities and travel long distances.1 Pollen season typically begins in late winter and early spring and can last for several months.1
How does pollen cause a reaction in the body?
In people with hayfever their immune system reacts to substances in the environment that are normally harmless for most people. These substances, known as allergens, can be found in pollens, dust mites, animal hair and mould. When a person who is allergic to pollen comes into contact with it, an allergic reaction ensues. The body responds by releasing certain substances including histamine, which triggers the uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms of hayfever including a runny and itchy or congested nose, itchy and watery eyes and sneezing.2 These symptoms can often lead to further complications including sleep problems, daytime tiredness, headaches and difficulty concentrating.2
How can I manage my spring allergy so it doesn’t disrupt my life?
To reduce pollen exposure and the symptoms of hayfever:
- Check the pollen forecast online or in the newspaper, and try to stay indoors if pollen counts are high.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
- Avoid mowing the grass and stay inside when it is being mown.1
- Choose plants for your garden that are pollinated by insects or birds, rather than plants that release their pollen into the air.3
- Regularly splash your eyes with cold water to flush out any pollen.3
- Smear Vaseline or something similar inside your nose to protect them from contact with pollen.3
- Plan a holiday at the beach or escape overseas during allergy season.
- Keep windows closed at home and in the car, and use re‐circulated air conditioning.1
- Take a non‐sedating antihistamine to control sneezing and itchy eyes and the other frustrating symptoms of hayfever.