When it comes to seasonal allergy triggers, pollen is one of the most common culprits of your constant sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and runny nose.
But, what can you do? Do you need to hide indoors whenever pollen levels are high? Are you just supposed to shut the windows, grab some tissues, and deal with the misery?
Have no fear. We’re answering all of your pollen allergy questions here—including what it is, what the symptoms are, and how you can effectively treat them.
We don’t want to play the blame game. But, when it comes to pollen allergies, we need to point the finger at plants.
A pollen allergy is a specific subset of hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis, since it deals with just one allergy trigger: pollen.
As the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American explains, plants release tiny pollen grains every spring, summer, and fall. These grains travel by the wind (yep, they’re literally in the air) and fertilize other plants of the same species.
Unfortunately, many people experience an allergic reaction to that airborn plant fertilizer, and that’s what causes the annoying allergy symptoms you dread.
The vast majority of pollen comes from three different sources that have three different seasons. Some people experience an allergic response to all three, while others only get symptoms with one:
During peak pollen seasons, many weather apps, news channels, or other resources publish daily pollen counts. Those counts are an estimation of how much pollen is in the air—which can help you figure out if you’re dealing with seasonal allergies, a common cold, or something else. Here's a handy list of pollen tracking apps.
So, what types of symptoms should you keep your (itchy, watery) eyes peeled for? Pollen allergy symptoms are similar to other signs of seasonal allergies. As the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology explains, symptoms can include:
If you have asthma, pollen allergies can also aggravate and worsen your asthma symptoms (in the form of increased coughing and wheezing).
There’s one more symptom-related question that might be rattling around in your brain: Can pollen allergies cause a fever?
Finally, we have a little bit of good news. No, pollen allergies typically do not cause a fever. It’s easy to get confused because of the term “hay fever.” However, this has nothing to do with your actual body temperature—which shouldn’t spike in response to allergies.
Needless to say, the symptoms aren’t fun. We’d love to tell you that pollen allergies are over quickly, but sadly, that’s not always the case. If you’re allergic to pollen, you’ll deal with your allergy symptoms for as long as pollen is in the air.
How long is that? Well, it depends—and it can vary depending on what type of pollen you’re most allergic to. For example, ragweed season can last from mid-August to the first frost, whereas grass and tree pollen season might last somewhere around two months.
So, now that you know your pollen allergies likely won’t be short-lived, let’s figure out what you can do to treat your symptoms. We’ve grouped them into two categories: allergy medications and lifestyle changes.
If you’re looking to get some relief through modern medicine, there are plenty of allergy treatments available to help you get some relief:
Antihistamines: When your immune system detects an allergen (in this case, pollen), it reacts by producing too much histamine. That chemical in your body is what causes your allergy symptoms.
Antihistamines are most effective when you take them preventatively—meaning, before your typical allergy season. They work by blocking the effects of histamine in your body. Oral antihistamines are most common, but they’re available as tablets, capsules, liquids, syrups, creams, lotions, gels, eyedrops, and nasal sprays. And speaking of nasal sprays...
Allergy nasal sprays: These reduce swelling in your nasal passages and address your sinus symptoms right at the source. Nasal sprays usually come in three forms: decongestant, antihistamine, and steroid. You can also get a nasal spray that’s a combination of a nasal steroid and an antihistamine.
Allergy shots: People who experience severe symptoms turn to immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots. These are administered by a doctor or allergist, who injects a small dose of your allergy trigger into your skin. You’re basically helping your body get accustomed to that allergen, with the goal of reducing the severity of your symptoms.
Don’t worry—you aren’t destined for a life indoors. However, there are some reasonable precautions you can take to lessen the severity of your pollen allergies:
Know your triggers: You might have a strong reaction to only ragweed pollen. Or maybe grass pollen is what gets you. Understanding your specific triggers and typical allergy season will help you be more proactive and targeted in reducing your symptoms (and make it easier to proactively take your antihistamines).
Be selective about when you go outdoors: As the Mayo Clinic explains, dry and windy days are the worst for pollen exposure. In contrast, a good rain helps clear the air of pollen. Additionally, pollen counts are at their worst in the early morning, so try to plan your outdoor time accordingly.
Keep your windows closed: On days when your area has high pollen counts, keep your windows closed if you can. That will help keep that pollen outside where it belongs.
If you struggle with pollen allergies, you aren’t alone. But the fact that they’re common doesn’t make them any less obnoxious to deal with.
Don’t resign yourself to feeling terrible at the same time every year. Pay attention to your body and determine your pollen trigger (is it ragweed, grass, tree pollen, or all of the above?). With that information, you can explore your treatment options to find something that works for you.
Now you can actually enjoy the different seasons—without a pocketful of tissues.
Ready to get your pollen allergy symptoms under control? Picnic can help point you toward a personal, allergist-picked Pack. Simply tell us about the symptoms and seasons that bother you most, along with a little about your experience, and we'll get you the personalized Allergy Pack and ongoing care you need to achieve peak relief.