The Sneeze

Pollen Allergies - Q&A

May 11, 2022

Written By:

Dr. Andrew Dang, Medical Director

What is pollen? What is Allergic Rhinitis?

  • Pollen is a powdery substance produced by plants, which are basically male gametes (sperm cells). When pollen comes into contact with a pistil or female cone portion of a compatible plant,  germination occurs.  This is the process by which plants reproduce.
  • Certain plants rely on insects like bees and butterflies to transport pollen (entomophilous).  Other plants rely on wind as their means of pollen transportation (anemophilous). 
  • Wind-pollinated plants (trees, grasses, and weeds) are the types of plants that can cause Allergic Rhinitis (a.k.a. seasonal allergies, or environmental allergies) in certain individuals.  Allergic Rhinitis can cause symptoms including itchy/watery/red eyes, runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, post-nasal drainage, sore throat, and/or recurrent sinus/ear infections.

Why is pollen so bad in Ohio?

  • Ohio Valley’s terrain provides a comfortable resting place for pollen that’s made a long journey from the west. Average annual temperatures and precipitation have risen in recent decades, and our region also receives more winds from the west than it did several decades ago, which all contributes to increase pollen and mold in the Ohio Valley.

What types of pollens do we see this time of year?

  • Tree pollens peak in the Spring months (March, April, May).  Grass pollens peak in the Summer months (May, June, July).  Weed pollens, such as ragweed, peak in the Fall (August, September).  Mold spores are year-round, but increase in amount whenever it is dark and humid (think rainy days outside, or musty basement inside). In the Winter, there is no pollen, however we spend more time indoors and therefore exposure to indoor allergens like dust mites, pet danders, and mold can worsen.

What type of weather conditions promote the onset of pollens?

  • Factors thought to affect pollen increases include warmer weather, carbon dioxide levels, humidity, and wind.

When do you know it’s time to see an allergist?

  • Your allergy symptoms are decreasing your quality of life and impacting your daily activities.
  • Over-the-counter allergy medications are not enough to control symptoms.
  • You have or are concerned about side effects from allergy medications.