In spring, people rush out of doors. They jog. They stroll. They smell the flowers. And ...They sneeze. Sometimes a lot. People with spring allergies know the drill: The itchy, watery eyes, blocked ears, and nasal congestion that can put a crimp in even the sunniest spring day. “A lot of times you don’t sleep well at night,” says Giselle Mosnaim, MD, professor of allergy and immunology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “And if you don’t sleep well at night, you can be tired and irritable...
The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen -- tiny grains released into the air by trees, grasses, and weeds for the purpose of fertilizing other plants. When pollen grains get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the immune system into overdrive.
The immune system, mistakenly seeing the pollen as foreign invaders, releases antibodies -- substances that normally identify and attack bacteria, viruses, and other illness-causing organisms. The antibodies attack the allergens, which leads to the release of chemicals called histamines into the blood. Histamines trigger the runny nose, itchy eyes, and other symptoms of allergies.
Pollen can travel for miles, spreading a path of misery for allergy sufferers along the way. The higher the pollen count, the greater the misery. The pollen count measures the amount of allergens in the air in grains per cubic meter. You can find out the daily pollen count in your area by watching your local weather forecast or by visiting the NAB: Pollen & Mold Counts page on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s web site.
Grasses and weeds
Allergy symptoms tend to be particularly high on breezy days when the wind picks up pollen and carries it through the air. Rainy days, on the other hand, cause a drop in the pollen counts, because the rain washes away the allergens.