Pollination and Allergy

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Category: Allergic Rhinitis and Sinusitus Published on Thursday, 10 July 2008 Written by Yong Tsai, MD
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Pollen, tiny particles that travel in the air or carried by insects, are male cells of flowering plants and essential to plant fertilization.  However, if it's windy while pollination is in progress, there exists a higher tendency of wind-borne-pollen induced allergic conjunctivitis, rhinitis and asthma.

In the United States , most wind-pollinating plants, those not attractive to insects, release pollen during one of the five pollen seasons: early spring (February-March), late spring (March-June), early summer (July-August), late summer to autumn (August-October) and winter (November-January).

Here in Florida , if your symptoms worsen during early spring, the probable cause is tree pollen, while in the late spring and early summer, tree and grass pollen would be likely culprits.  From late summer to autumn, weed pollen, especially ragweed is high and during the summer and fall, but also year-round, mold spores are quite active. During the winter, most areas of the country are typically pollen free, with the exception of Florida , South Central Texas, and South California , which have some pollen activity including a few trees, weeds and mold.

While, warm air encourages pollination, cool temperatures reduce pollen production and rain washes it away. And because humidity affects the pollination process, a combination of low humidity and a wind increase the amount of pollen in the air, which can increase the misery of allergy sufferers.

Tree, grass, and weed pollen account for almost of all pollen-induced allergies, grass allergy being the most common in the world.  Levels of pollen can be calculated, with the use of a special device, by counting the average number of pollen grains in a cubic yard of air during a period of 24 hours.  For Volusia County, the pollen count is collected and read by Dr. Michael Diamond and his nurse Sue and can be found in the daily weather section of the News-Journal.

What we are experiencing now is very high pine pollen, high cedar pollen, and moderate sweet gum, oak, and bayberry pollen, which we can expect to be active until April.

Even though it may be critical for very sensitive people to avoid large doses of allergenic plants, many times it is almost impossible because pollen can travel many miles on a breeze and can also be present at  home, often blow indoors (typically through open windows and doors).

Therefore, avoiding intense outdoor activity, during the early morning and late afternoon hours when pollen counts are high, and by wearing a dust mask can help.  Other prevention methods are to close windows and run a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrester) or ULPA (Ultra Low Penetration Air) air purifier, to clean and replace air-conditioner filters regularly, and to monitor your community pollen count report to know what to expect and how to prepare for it.

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