Prevention and Management of Pollen Allergy

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Prevention and Management of Pollen Allergy

There are three main approaches to the treatment of pollen allergy:

Avoidance: Complete avoidance of allergenic pollen means moving to a place where the pollen is not present in the air. But this is an extreme solution and possibly only a temporary source of relief. Other ways of evading the offending pollen: remaining indoors in the morning specially on sunny, windy days. If such persons need to work outdoors, they should wear face masks.

Air conditioners: Use of air conditioners inside the home helps in reducing pollen levels. Air-filtering devices made with fiberglass or electrically charged plates can also be added to the heating and cooling systems in the home.

Avoiding Irritants: People with pollen allergy should try and avoid exposure to irritants such as dust, insect sprays, tobacco smoke, air pollution, odour of fresh tar, petrol or paint.

Prescription medicines and OTC medicines such as antihistamines, corticosteroids and cromolyn sodium can often control the symptoms of pollen allergy. Most of these medications, however, have their downside.

Antihistamines: Many people who take antihistamines experience side effects viz. drowsiness, lack of alertness and co-ordination. In children, these reactions are commonly misinterpreted as behavior problem.

Corticosteroids: Prolonged use of corticosteroids, especially for pollen allergy, may result in serious side effects. Nasal sprays containing locally active corticosteroids that affect only the nasal passage rather than the entire body are now available. The side effects, although minimal, may include nasal burning and dryness and sore throat.

Cromolyn sodium: Cromolyn sodium controls the allergic symptoms by suppressing the release of histamines. This nasal solution is safe and effective but the solution has to be used for several days or weeks before any noticeable effect to take place.

Nasal decongestants: The OTC nasal decongestants relieve blocked nasal passage but their side effects may include raised blood pressure, increased heart rate and nervousness. People suffering from allergic rhinitis should avoid using nasal decongestant sprays because frequent or prolonged use may lead to a "rebound phenomenon,".Under this phenonmenon, the nasal passages get shrinked by increased swelling and congestion. When this occurs, person might use the spray in higher doses, or more frequently and instead of improving nasal congestion, further intensifies the allergic problem.

Alternative methods of relieving pollen allergy symptoms include:

  1. Nasal irrigation: Also known as ‘jala neti’ this is a widely practiced ancient Ayurvedic practice. Nasal irrigation uses salt water to flush out the dirt and bacteria filled mucous lining.
  2. Steam inhalation: This method reduces congestion and soothes irritated nasal and sinus membranes.
  3. Aromatherapy: Essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, rosemary and tea-tree oil are used to produce vapor that help alleviate symptoms of pollen allergy.

Another method of controlling pollen allergy symptoms is the allergy shots or immunotherapy. This treatment helps increase the tolerance to the particular pollen to which the patient is allergic.

References:

  1. Hay Fever - (https://medlineplus.gov/hayfever.html)
  2. Eriksson NE, Formgren H, Svenonius E. Food hypersensitivity in patients with pollen allergy. Allergy. 1982, 37(6):437-43

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