The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and you – are you blowing your nose?
Spring is the time of year for seasonal allergies. As nature starts to bloom and pollen is released into the air, allergy sufferers begin to get the itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose and sinus pressure that makes spring tough to love.
You may find yourself asking, why me? What makes me allergic to nature? Most seasonal allergies are triggered by pollen – that fine, yellow, powdery substance released by trees, flowers, grasses and weeds that you find caked on your car after a particularly nice day. While some plants rely on insects to transfer pollen, others rely on the wind for transport.
These plants, typically trees, grasses and weeds, release small, light, dry pollen that can easily be picked up by the wind. That’s why light breezes and grass cutting will usually stir up the sneezes – more pollen is being kicked up into the air. Because this kind of pollen is so small and light, it can travel for miles in the air, so ridding an area of offending plants usually does little good. It will usually make its way inside your home as well, settling in with dust and sending your allergies into overdrive.
When you have allergies, your immune system is mistaking the pollen as a foreign body and releases antibodies to attack it – usually the same response that your body would have when being attached by a virus or bacteria. When your immune system releases antibodies to attack the foreign bodies you’re breathing in, like pollen, it also releases histamines into the blood causing dilation of capillaries, contraction of smooth muscle, and stimulation of gastric acid secretion. These histamines trigger the runny nose, itchy eyes and other allergy symptoms. That’s why it’s easy to confuse allergies for a cold. You’re body is displaying a similar reaction to how it would defend against disease.
In order to best combat your seasonal allergies, it’s important to understand which pollens you are allergic to. Allergists can easily test you for various types of trees, weeds, grasses and plants that may be affecting you. Top spring blooming plants that cause allergies in the Philadelphia area include oak, birch, and maples. Keeping an eye on pollen counts can help you get an idea of what plants might be giving you the most trouble.