The most effective treatment for hay fever is avoiding the offending allergen. That's easier said than done, however, when the allergen is outdoor pollen. Indeed, many people believe that the only sure way to avoid a particular plant pollen is to move to a different part of the country with a different set of plants. But in fact, most people who relocate to get away from one pollen type find that they eventually develop allergies to different plant pollens in the new area. Moreover, with a little effort and foresight, you usually can get relief by lessening your exposure to pollen both inside and outside your home.
Finally, if it is not practical to reduce your exposure to pollens, medications can help. More information on medications can be found in our section on treating hay fever.
Pollen and pollen counts
Pollen is the male component of the plant reproductive system. The type of pollen that most commonly causes allergic reactions comes from plants that produce small, light, dry pollen granules in large quantities that can be carried through the air for miles. Common allergenic culprits include:
In the spring, hay fever is caused by pollen from trees. Over the summer, pollen from grasses and weeds is the culprit. In the fall, ragweed is usually the cause of hay fever.
The beginning and end of pollen seasons for particular plants are very consistent in each geographical region. However, the weather can determine how heavy the pollen count will be seasonally and daily. The pollen count is a measure of the amount of pollen in the air. Usually, pollen counts are at their highest on warm, dry, and breezy mornings and their lowest on rainy, cool days. Generally, the severity of your allergic reaction will mirror the rise and fall of the pollen count.
Pollen counts commonly are included in local weather reports. The counts usually are reported for mold spores and three types of pollen: trees, grasses, and weeds. The count is reported as grains of pollen per square meter of air collected over 24 hours. This number represents the concentration of all the pollen in the air in a certain area at a specific time.
In general, a "low" pollen count means that only people extremely sensitive to pollen will experience symptoms. A "medium" count means many people who are sensitive to pollen will experience symptoms, and a "high" count means most people with any sensitivity to pollen will experience symptoms.
Although the pollen count is approximate and fluctuates, it is useful as a general guide when you are trying to determine whether or not you should stay indoors to avoid exposure to pollen.
The following recommendations can help you avoid symptoms whether you're at home, outdoors, or out on the town.
Last reviewed on 08/19/2008
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