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Pollen Allergy

Although pollen is produced out of doors, there are steps that you can take to decrease your pollen exposure, both indoors and outside.

What is pollen?

Pollen is the reproductive particle produced by male plants.   If you have ever had a black car, you have seen pollen as the greenish-yellow dust that accumulates on the car’s surface during the pollen season.  The pollens produced by trees, grass, ragweed, and other weeds are the most likely to provoke allergic reactions.

How is pollen spread?

Pollen can be spread by the wind or by insects.  It is the lightweight wind-spread pollen, produced by plants that lack brightly colored flowers, that travels over large distances and causes allergy symptoms.  The pollen of pretty flowers is heavy, is spread from plant to plant by insects rather than by wind, and is therefore not generally a cause of allergy.  That is why it is the inconspicuous green ragweed, not the bright yellow goldenrod, that is the cause of allergy suffering.

When is wind-spread pollen highest?

Pollen is released by plants according to either the date or the weather, with pollen seasons for particular plants varying in different parts of the country.  Some plants sense the number of hours of light in a day, and pollinate accordingly; other plants are temperature sensitive.  When a specific pollen is in season, pollen levels will generally be higher early in the morning, and on dry and windy days.

What can be done to decrease exposure to pollen?

Control Your Air

  1. Keep windows closed and air conditioning on, both at home and in the car.

  2. If you want to open windows use window filters that trap pollen, to allow an influx of fresh but pollen-free air.

Keep Clean

  1. Do not dry clothing on an outside line during the pollen season.  Doing so will result in pollen being carried into the house.

  2. Shower yourself and wash clothing after spending time outdoors during the pollen season.

Minimize Outdoor Exposure

  1. Exercise indoors during the pollen season.

  2. The best time to be outside is after a rain, when the pollen has been washed from the air.  Windy days, compared to calm days, will expose you to more pollen per minute spent outdoors.

  3. Avoid early morning outdoor exposure.

  4. Avoid cutting the grass during the grass-pollen season, or if you must, wear a good-fitting facemask and glasses or goggles.

  5. Realize that pollen counts are old news.  The pollen count that is reported today was based, at best, on counting done the day before.  Pollen has to be collected before it can be identified and counted, so the “pollen count” is not a measure of real-time exposure.  Pollen counts are most useful for letting you know what is in season, rather than what the levels are on a particular day.

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