The common name Hay Fever covers several patterns of seasonal allergic rhino-conjunctivitis (nose and eye inflammation). All are due to allergy to wind-pollinated grasses, weeds, trees or to mould spores. The flowers of wind pollinated trees in particular, tend to be inconspicuous, so some people put it down to the more obvious insect pollinated plants that flower at the same time of year – not true, because the much larger pollen of gaudy flowers is much too big and heavy to float freely in the air, never mind get up your nose. To check that out, just look at the rear end of a bee sometime – big yellow blobs!
The most common form is due to grass pollen, especially timothy grass released in the summer. Spring Hay Fever is due to tree pollen. Birch pollen is the most allergenic, but people can react to react to many other species. Mould spores start to be released once their obvious “mushroom/toadstool” fruiting bodies start coming up in autumn’s damp weather. Knowing something about the biology of windborne pollen can help you reduce your exposure.
Pollen counts tend to be lowest at 6 am, then gradually rise throughout the day and evening, to peak at 11 pm to midnight. That’s the time when Hay Asthma attacks are most frequent and severe. Therefore, if you want to exercise outside, try to do so early in the day. Pollen masks over the mouth and nose can useful for exercise outdoors, gardeners, cyclists, etc.
Windborne pollen is carried for hundreds of miles in the air. Therefore, it is totally pointless to chop down all the trees in your own garden, or not to have a lawn. The circulating air currents in city streets, caused by the air being heated by the sun hitting the buildings on one side of the street and then cooled on the opposite, can totally distort the usual pattern of pollen counts in the open country. Not only that, it can mean that the continued re-circulation of air causes pollen build-ups that exceed the counts over a hayfield.
Pollen hits the eye by “inertial deposition”. That is, a rapid flow of air has to divert to go round your face. Despite how light and small it is, the pollen’s inertia makes it carry on in a straight line and into your eye. Therefore, anything in front of your eye will help reduce this. If you don’t want to go so far as to wear goggles, even a simple pair of sunglasses can help. Whatever you do, don’t drive around with the car’s window open. The air turbulence not only smashes pollen into your eyes, but can cause pollen build up within the car. Next time you are buying a new car, consider making a pollen filter a priority.
Pollen is rapidly washed out of the air by rain. Pollen is not released during rainy weather and builds up in the plant, only to be released at the next dry spell. The longer the rainy spell, the higher the pollen count will be once the weather improves. Consider taking your antihistamine once the weather man predicts an improvement in the weather.
Antihistamines are good for itching and sneezing, but only steroid sprays are any use for nose blockage. Problem is, once your nose is blocked, sprays can’t get up it. They really needed to be started at least two weeks before the pollen season starts and then continued until it’s end. Remember, when the pollen season starts depends upon where you live – earlier in the South later in the North.
Air filtering machines are useless for mite allergy, but can be useful for pollen allergy indoors, but are expensive and you need to keep all the windows closed – not what you want on a hot summer night, when pollens counts are highest and you need the cooling breeze from an open window. We produce a simple inexpensive, but very effective filter that lets through a free flow of air through your open window while removing pollen, mould spores and other particulate nasties.
Thunderstorms can do something strange to pollen in the Hay Fever season. Local epidemics of hospital admissions for acute life-threatening asthma are linked to thunderstorms. If you are a Hay Fever sufferer who suddenly gets short of breath during, or soon after a thunderstorm, seek medical help early rather than battle on – it could save your life.