If you get hay fever, minimising your exposure to grass pollen is likely to be useful. Fortunately, it’s becoming easier to keep track of the pollen count. But what do you do when it’s high?
Grass pollen is the major outdoor trigger of hay fever and allergic asthma. Pollen grains contain a variety of allergens that can trigger allergic reactions in people who are sensitised to pollen.
The good news is, if pollen is a problem for you, there are things you can do to manage your exposure to it. By adopting some simple tips alongside preventative medications, you may find this hay fever season a little more manageable.
What causes hay fever?
People who are genetically prone to develop allergies may become sensitised to pollen.
Sensitisation involves development of specific antibodies (called Immunoglobulin E, or IgE) that can bind to the triggering allergen. Repeated exposure to the triggering allergen leads to the activation of inflammatory cells, causing the release of histamine and other mediators. That’s when the symptoms kick in.
An allergic reaction to pollen can lead to hay fever symptoms affecting the upper airways, including itchy, watery eyes, an itchy, inflamed throat, a runny or blocked nose, and sneezing.
Pollen allergy can also lead to what we call allergic asthma – if the allergen components enter deeper into the lungs, this can cause inflammation and symptoms of asthma, like shortness of breath.
While hay fever has long been regarded a trivial condition, it can be a serious chronic disease associated with other problems such as sinusitis, sleep disturbance because of nasal blockage, and asthma, leading to fatigue and poor performance at work or school.
What can you do to reduce exposure to pollen allergens?
The tragic thunderstorm asthma epidemic of November 2016 in Melbourne shocked many and elucidated the potential harm of grass pollen exposure.
Lessons from this event illustrate staying indoors with the windows closed reduces risk of experiencing severe symptoms.
Many people affected by thunderstorm asthma recall being outside prior to the passage of the thunderstorm across the greater Melbourne region during the late evening of November 21, 2016.
Of course, this was an uncommon event, and the majority of people who get hay fever will not experience this level of illness.
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