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What causes Allergies in the Spring?

What causes Allergies in the Spring?

Ahhh, Spring time. The earth comes out of its winter stupor. Coats get traded in for tee shirts, sandals replace boots, the birds are singing and the flowers are blooming. All is right in the world again.  Yeah, not so fast. Spring can mean misery too. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that about 36 million people in the US suffer from seasonal allergies.  That’s a whole lot of sneezing, wheezing, itchy and watery eyes, coughing and sniffling.  What causes allergies in the Spring? What you can do about it? 


Pollen is the Main Cause of Allergies in the Spring


The chief culprit in Spring seasonal allergies is pollen. Specifically, the pollen from trees causes allergies in the spring.  Their wingmen in allergy mayhem are grass pollen and weed pollen. As the soils warms up, the plants come to life and immediately set about making more plants.

Pollen is that yellow, white or green dust that seems to be coating everything in the spring. It’s on the patio furniture, the walkways, the driveway and even the car. Pollen is absolutely necessary for trees to make more trees and it absolutely makes people with seasonal allergies miserable. 


Love Is in the Air


Trees can’t get on the internet and set up an on-line dating profile. They find love the old-fashioned way, they get out there and find it. Pollen grains are the male sexual organs of plants in search of female sexual organs. Most trees depend on the wind to disperse pollen. Depending on the wind speed and direction, the tree pollen in your backyard could have originated miles away. Trees with big showy flowers aren’t the problem. Those showy flowers are filled with waxy pollen and attract bees, wasps, and other insects. These trees are allergy-friendly because they rely on winged insects to move their pollen. No, the problem trees are maples, elms, and oaks to name just a few of the top offenders. Their flowers aren’t even noticeable. The pollen produced by these trees is extremely small and very light. It is perfectly equipped to ride the air – and ride away it does. Pollen has been found over a hundred miles out at sea and miles up in the air. 


Mold Also Causes Allergies in the Spring


While tree pollen is the prime offender, mold also is also the cause of allergies in the spring. Like trees, molds rely on the air for reproduction. They expel spores and these spores are picked up by the wind and dispersed everywhere.  Cladosporium is one of the most common outdoor molds and it releases spores as the temperature rises. This mold is found on the soil and on decaying plant matter, like logs and leaves. Alternaria grows on living plants and is common from spring to fall.  70% of people that are allergic to mold are allergic to Alternaria. Like cladosporium it sends spores in the air as it reproduces. 


How Pollens and Molds Cause Spring Allergies


So, if pollens and molds are the most common cause of spring allergies, how do they do it? What is it about them that causes such misery?


Well it’s not really on them. Those pollens and molds are pretty harmless. The problem is in the immune system of the person with allergies.


It starts when those little particles get inhaled. When an allergic person inhales those airborne pollens and molds, their immune system doesn’t see the particles as mold or pollen. The body knows these bits don’t belong, but it thinks they are disease causing germs or viruses. It’s a case of mistaken identity.


The first time the body sees that pollen or mold, the immune system creates an antibody or a human immunoglobulin (IgE). It’s the same mechanism makes vaccination effective, except the IgE wasn’t created to battle a germ, it was created for battling something harmless. So, on every subsequent exposure your immune system kicks into high gear because it thinks it’s fighting a germ.


This is one of the reasons that it can be difficult to tell the difference between cold symptoms and allergy symptoms. The cold causes sneezing and sniffling and so does an allergic reaction. But in an allergic reaction, the mast cells cause histamine to be released. Cold viruses don’t trigger the release of histamine. That’s why antihistamines don’t work for a cold, but they do relieve allergy symptoms. 


How to Prevent Allergies in the Spring


The key to keeping those spring allergies in check is keeping your exposure in check. By limiting the opportunities for the immune system to react, you stop the symptoms before they can start. It’s all about avoidance.


Stay indoors on windy days.  The more the wind is blowing, the more pollen is hitching a ride. Pollen counts are highest on dry, windy days.  When the wind isn’t blowing or humidity levels are high, plants don’t waste their pollen by releasing it. That means you are safe. Mornings and late afternoon are also good times to avoid pollen. Pollen counts are highest during the heat of the day.


Your hair and your clothes are magnets for pollen. When you do come inside, head straight to the bathroom and change clothes and shower. Don’t change clothes in any room with carpeting or upholstered furniture. Those fibers will just collect the pollen. The bathroom is perfect because the hard surfaces make wiping up pollen easy.  While you are in there, might as well wash your hair and get the pollen out of there too. This may seem a bit crazy, but it is the easiest way to prevent the spread of pollen and mold all over your house.


If you like to garden or exercise outdoors, invest in a high quality dust & pollen mask that will stop the pollen but won’t stop you from breathing. Wear it while running, mowing the grass, or walking the dog.


Speaking of dogs, pets are pollen and mold magnets too. Keep pets inside on windy days or when pollen counts are high. Brush them often to remove the pollen and mold they collected outdoors.


Try nasal irrigation. A neti pot or nasal irrigator is a safe and effective way to gently wash away any pollen or mold you may have inhaled. When done regularly, it can reduce allergy symptoms and improve respiratory health.


Talk to your doctor about nasal glucocorticoid sprays. These sprays are available over the counter and when used once a day during spring allergy season they can be effective in limiting symptoms when you can’t limit exposure.


Wishing you the best of health

The Allergy Store


Allergy elimination is about eliminating the allergy-causing substance in your home the best you can. Once you do this, you may be able to eliminate the need for all the medications and doctor visits. For additional information please click here to download your free copy of" You Can Do It! Allergy Free Living. 



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