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Pollen Allergies

Imagine a home on the beach, the cool sea breezes blowing all the pollen away.  Or perhaps you would rather live on a mountain peak.  These are just about the only two places people with pollen allergies can live relatively symptom free.

Pollen is a powder-like substance made up of fine grains that are actually the male cells of seed plants.  The pollen that most often causes allergies comes from trees, grasses, weeds, and mold.  Despite what you may have seen in countless cartoons, ornamental flowers, such as those in a bouquet, do not distribute pollen.

Symptoms of pollen allergies are similar to those of a common cold, including sore throat, hoarseness, watery eyes, runny nose, cough, sneezing, and nasal congestion.

If it is not possible to pull up roots and move to the seaside, there are still things people can do to find relief from pollen allergies—some simple and others time-consuming. The extent to which you want to go depends on the severity of your allergies.

One of the easiest things to do is keep a close watch on pollen counts. The pollen count, often mentioned in weather reports, but also available online, is the average number of pollen grains per cubic meter of air.  Zero to thirty grains is considered low, 31-60 moderate, 61-120 high, and over 120 extremely high.

A pollen count forecast is about as accurate as a weather report since it is based on a number of variable factors, including the previous day's numbers, temperature, rainfall, and time of year.  Dry, warm, windy days are worst for pollen allergies, while rainy days tend to ground the pollen, keeping the air clear.  Some plants do not release pollen on cloudy days, but the next warm, clear day gets a double dose.

Different plants release pollen at different times of the day, making it difficult to avoid pollen by staying indoors, but not impossible.  If you want to go on a morning run, make sure you get home before 7:30 am.  Walk or run in the evening before the so-called “pollen shower” which occurs when pollen that has been swept up into Earth's atmosphere on a warm day falls back to the ground, usually between 8 and 10 p.m. in the countryside, and midnight at 2 a.m. in the city.

Pollen fall also occurs indoors.  If you close all your doors and windows, seal up drafts, and let the air become very still, pollen will settle on the floor, leaving you with clear air to breathe.

Other strategies for avoiding pollen indoors include turning on the air conditioning and keeping pets out of the house—or at least out of the bedroom.  Change clothes and shower and rinse hair after coming in from outdoors.  Consider keeping special indoor clothing. Cover your bed and other furniture with a sheet during the day which should be removed and washed each evening.  Wet dust and vacuum daily.

If you must be outdoors wear an exercise mask or cover the nose and mouth with a scarf during peak pollen times.  A thin layer of petroleum jelly just inside the nostrils will trap pollen.  When driving, roll up car windows and turn on the air conditioner.  Wear big sunglasses when outside. Do not hang laundry outside, where it can collect pollen.

Pollen allergies are a great excuse for hiring someone to mow the lawn and/or rake leaves.
There are numerous over-the-counter and prescription medications for treating the symptoms of pollen allergies.  Antihistamines are often the first line of attack, but other helpful aids are decongestants, nasal allergy sprays, steroid nasal sprays, allergy eye drops, allergy shots, and mast cell and leukotriene inhibitors.

Try keeping the home between 68 and 72 degrees.  Some people find relief by clearing nasal sinus passages with a neti pot or bulb syringe.  Massage can help relieve stress, which contributes to allergy symptoms.

If things get too bad, maybe you can at least squeeze in a short beach or mountain vacation for a few days of relief and relaxation!  Not only will you get a break from the pollen that’s aggravating your allergies, but you’ll also have some fun in a fabulous vacation location at the same time! 

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