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Pollen, My Friend, Is Blowing In The Wind

We are entering pollen season. Maybe you thought I was going to say we are entering the Twilight Zone, and to many who suffer with pollen allergies, spring might seem like a science fiction horror show. In our April newsletter, we will take a look at what pollen means to us because... Pollen, My Friend, Is Blowing In The Wind.

Margie Bullock
& The National Allergy
Newsletter Team

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National Allergy E-Mail Newsletter

Pollen, My Friend, Is Blowing In The Wind

Is pollen season making you miserable? You have plenty of company. Over 20% of Americans suffer from what we in the allergy business call "seasonal allergies". That means you react to pollen with sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and just plain feeling bad. In the spring, wind-pollinated trees are the trouble-makers.

Why Is Pollen So Bad In The Spring?

National Allergy Has Products To Help Relieve Your Spring Allergies I always thought my springtime allergy symptoms were caused by all the beautiful flowers blooming, but flower pollen really doesn't cause much trouble. This is because flowers are pollinated differently than trees. Flowers are insect-pollinated. The flower-insect relationship is mutually beneficial; some flowers even have their own insects. The bright blooms attract the insects to the nectar and then the insects carry the pollen that happens to brush off on them to other flowers along the way. In contrast, trees are wind-pollinated. There is nothing flashy to attract insects - no color, no scent, no petals to land on, and no nectar. Most trees have to depend on the wind for pollination, so they have to produce much larger quantities of pollen for this hit-or-miss system to work. Some trees that cause problems with their pollen in April and May are: ash, birch, cedar, cypress, elm, hickory, maple, oak, poplar, sycamore, and walnut.

What Can I Do To Get Some Relief?

No, don't pull out the chain saw! I know you are getting desperate, but cutting down the trees in your yard is not the answer. Tree pollen can make it to your backyard from miles away. And don't pack up your suitcase yet, either. You may get away from one type of pollen or allergen, but if you are predisposed to allergies, you can never altogether escape. You will more than likely develop a new allergy to local plant life in a new area.

With any type of allergy, including pollen, avoidance of the source is a commonsense measure that can make an immense difference. While you cannot get completely away from pollens, you can do the following:
  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are high (see more about pollen counts below).
  • Wear a mask when you have to be outside. We offer many masks that are effective in filtering out pollen so we should have one to suit you. For example, the I Can Breathe Silk Mask is made of a comfortable, natural-fiber silk fabric and can be washed over and over. The washable Breathe Healthy Mask is a nice choice when you want to be colorful and look less like a hospital employee. This is especially important when trying to get a child to wear a mask. The 3M Disposable Dust & Pollen Mask is good for people who don't want to wash a mask, you can use this mask repeatedly and then just toss it and get a fresh one.
Washable Silk Mask From I Can Breathe
I Can Breathe Silk
Washable Breathe Healthy Mask in Cheerful Colors
Breathe Healthy
15-Pack Disposable Dust & Pollen Mask From 3M
3M Dust & Pollen

  • Keep windows closed in your home and car. The fresh spring air is so tempting, but remember that throwing open all the windows is not worth it if it leads to an allergy or asthma attack. If you really want some fresh air, use a window screen ventilator in your home to block pollen while still allowing air to pass through.
  • Use a HEPA room air purifier to take pollen out of the air in your home. Pollen particles are larger than .3 micron in size, so HEPA filtration will remove all the pollen from the air that is drawn through the machine. We offer a number of brands including:
Honeywell Enviracaire HEPA Air Cleaners Take Pollen Out Of The Air
Blueair HEPA Air Purifiers Filter Pollen From Your Home
Hunter QuietFlo HEPA Air Purifiers For Pollen-Free Air
Austin Air HEPA Air Purifiers Clean Pollen From The Air Austin Air

  • Change clothes as soon as you come in from outdoors, so you are not sitting around breathing in the pollen that is stuck on you.
  • Take a shower & wash your hair before going to bed to keep pollen off your bed linens and out of your breathing space.
  • Pollen will hitchhike in on your cat or dog as well, so wipe down pets when they come in the house
  • Use an allergen-type furnace filter to take a large amount of pollen out of the air as it goes through your air conditioning system. Filtrete Allergen Reduction 1-Inch Furnace Filters From 3M come in three levels of filtration to fit your needs.
Filtrete Micro Allergen Reduction Filter From 3M
Micro Allergen
Filtrete Ultra Allergen Reduction Filter From 3M
Ultra Allergen
Filtrete Advanced Allergen Reduction Filter From 3M
Advanced Allergen
(see special on Filtrete Allergen Reduction 1" Furnace Filters below)

  • Use vent filters on the vents in the one or two rooms where you spend the most time to trap any pollen that might still be coming through your ductwork and out the air register. (see special on Rolled Vent Filtration Kits below)
In addition, you can use nasal irrigation to rinse pollen out of your nose and sinuses. This technique has been around for centuries. There are several different methods, so you can pick the one that is most comfortable for you. Some people prefer the steady pulsatile motion of a nasal irrigation machine like the SinuPulse or Hydro Pulse. You hold the wand to your nose and a steady stream of saline is gently directed into your nose. With the SinuPulse, you also have the option of a mist spray as well as a stream. Plus, for a limited time, it comes with two great free gifts - an extra value of almost $24.00!

SinuPulse Elite Nasal Irrigation System
Hydro Pulse Nasal Irrigation System
Hydro Pulse

Some people prefer a more do-it-yourself approach. With a neti pot,SinuCleanse Neti Pot you hold your head at an angle over a sink, pour saline solution in one nostril and allow it to rinse the nasal passages and sinuses before running out the other nostril. If you prefer to stand up straight or lean slightly over the sink while rinsing your nose and sinuses, the Nasopure, SinuCleanse Squeeze, Nasaline, or Saltaire might be more to your liking:

Sinucleanse Squeeze
SinuCleanse Squeeze

It can take a few days to get the hang of nasal irrigation, but the results are usually so good that you will continue. My son (the one who is allergic to everything) uses nasal irrigation every single day. He often uses steam inhalation prior to irrigating to loosen the mucous for maximum benefit. Another mucous loosening agent that has become very popular is Alkalol.

If you are not sure if you are suffering from allergies or just have a cold, you may need to see a doctor who can do an allergy skin test. It is easier to avoid the source when you know specifically what it is you are trying to avoid.

Why Is This Happening To Me?

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America cites three factors that must be present for someone to develop an allergic sensitivity:
  1. The specific genes acquired from parents.
  2. The exposure to one or more allergens to which you have a genetically programmed response.
  3. The degree and length of exposure.
If your parents have allergies, there is a good chance you will develop sensitivity to one or more allergens although it may not be the same ones. While your mom sneezes her head off around dust, you may not have any problem with it. But pollen may give you fits. Another scenario would be that your mom is allergic to cats, so you probably never had one growing up. Then maybe you marry someone with a cat and are suddenly exposed to cat allergen constantly. You may start having allergic symptoms right away. However, it could take months or years for you to become sensitive to cat allergen and exhibit symptoms.

What we call an allergy is the exaggerated response of the body's immune system to ordinary things that people come in contact with every day. Two people could be exposed to exactly the same things and one could develop an allergy while the other one has no reaction. When the body thinks it is being attacked, the white blood cells produce antibodies and that process is called sensitization. The antibody causes chemicals and hormones to be released known as mediators. Histamine is a mediator that causes allergy symptoms.

Basically, allergies are unpredictable. For example, I never reacted to poison ivy until I was an adult. It took several exposures over the years for me to get a rash from contact, but my children reacted to poison ivy the first time they touched it. You have probably known someone who says they never reacted to pollen (dust mites, cats, etc.) before and are puzzled that an allergy suddenly develops. That is just the way allergies work. If you are predisposed to allergies and are exposed to a substance (especially over time), you could very likely become sensitive and exhibit allergic symptoms from then on.

Is There Really Someone Outside Counting Pollen Every Day?

Well, yes, there is. There are several services that have stations across the country where instruments collect pollen samples to determine the type and amount of pollen present in the air. A device called a Rotorod sampler is most commonly used for pollen. As you might guess, it is comprised of a rod that rotates and collects pollen for specified times. Based on much historical data and the count for the previous 24 hours, pollen forecasts can be made fairly accurately. However, there are conditions that affect the pollen count such as time of day, wind, humidity and rain. Pollen can be settled out of the air and washed away by rain; however, a thunderstorm can cause pollen that has settled to once again become airborne and increase the pollen count.

Watching the pollen count in your area can give you an indication about when it's better to leave your home. During the season, your local news will likely give this information. The Weather Channel also provides pollen statistics on TV and online at Other good sources for a pollen count are the National Allergy Bureau, a section of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's (AAAAI) Aeroallergen Network.

You can't get away from tree pollen, so if you are allergic to it, it can make spring miserable. We hope the self-help suggestions and information above will help minimize your misery. Remember that our customer service representatives have plenty of experience guiding people through the options for allergy, asthma and sinus relief, so feel free to give us a call at 1-800-522-1448.
National Allergy E-Mail Newsletter
The information in this newsletter is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.

Remember that our customer service representatives have plenty of experience guiding people through the options for allergy, asthma and sinus relief, so feel free to contact us by calling one of our phone experts at 1-800-522-1448 Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:30 pm Eastern Time. You can also e-mail us at

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