Facts About Pollen

Pollen on the ground

I have a mesquite tree in my front yard that grows like a weed. With the rising summer heat, the tree just flourishes and grows almost uncontrollably. Now that the temperatures are rising, I decided it was time for a major trim. I grabbed the necessary tools and, looking at the blanket of pollen on the ground, decided to wear a mask.

It is a large tree, and took over an hour to give it a thorough trimming. I was thankful I wore the mask, because the tree showered me with pollen the entire time I worked on it. When I was finished trimming, I was completely covered with the powder. I immediately took a shower in an attempt to keep the pollen from contaminating the interior of the house.

While I was trimming, I began thinking:

What is pollen?

Pollen is a very common allergen. It is a fine powdery substance, typically yellow, consisting of microscopic grains discharged from the male part of a flower or other plant. Each grain contains a male gamete (male reproductive cell) that can fertilize the female ovule (female reproductive cell) of the same species. Pollen is transported by the wind, insects, or other animals. The average pollen particle is smaller than the width of an average human hair. Because trees are rooted, they rely on the wind to spread their pollen in hopes of reproduction. In the case of my trimming expedition, my tree must now be the father of billions.

Are there different types of pollen?

There are three different types of pollens that can cause allergic reactions. There is tree pollen, weed pollen, and grass pollen. Grass pollen is the pollen most present in the air, and the most common cause of allergies. In most parts of the United States, spring brings tree pollens, summer brings grass pollens, and fall brings weed pollens. Right now is the end of spring, and it explains why my tree is dumping pollen like an unstoppable rebel force.

Why are we allergic to pollen?

Pollen is microscopic and easily gets into the body. It causes allergies because the immune system sees the pollen as a foreign invader and believes it is dangerous. The immune system attacks the pollen particles by releasing antibodies. This process produces a chemical called histamine, and histamine causes allergy symptoms.

How can we avoid pollen?

• The concentration of pollen in the air can vary, so know the pollen count and stay inside when it is high.

• Wind can increase the pollen count, so stay inside on windy days.

• Keep your pets inside on windy and high pollen count days. Pets are pollen-carriers and can transport it inside.

• Wear a mask when doing yard work. I was very grateful I took this step when trimming the tree.

• Change clothes and shower after being outside. Pollen can fall off your clothes, skin, and hair and contaminate your living space.

Any tips to lessen allergy effects?

• Take over-the-counter allergy medication that contains an antihistamine. This can cause drowsiness, however.

• Consult an allergist to find out what types of pollen you are most allergic to.

• Avoid alcohol, peanuts, sugar, processed foods, wheat, gluten, chocolate, coffee, and dairy products.

• If you have a ragweed allergy, avoid melons, bananas, cucumbers, and sunflower seeds.

• Spicy foods can thin out mucus and help relieve congestion.

• Vegetables like carrots, yams, cabbage, beets, and Swiss chard can help fight allergy effects and inflammation.

• Local raw honey can help as it contains the very pollen your allergies stem from.

Forrest in summertime

Pollen is an important part of nature. Without it, there would be no more trees or plants. Unfortunately, pollen and humans just don’t mix. So understanding what it is and what we can do to live in harmony with it is the key to living with minimal pollen allergies.

Avoiding pollen is difficult, but not impossible. It is not going away any time soon, so put these tips into practice as a way to lessen the effects of allergies. Doctors and medication can help with allergy symptoms, and staying inside can help as well. Wear a mask when doing yard work along with changing your clothes and taking a shower when finished. As always, be purposeful with the foods you eat, as this can help with the severity of your allergies as well.

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