According to specialists, 39% of people report that their sinus infection started out as an allergy. In response, Dr. Bennett believes it is important for patients to know the important facts about the most common allergens and how to avoid them to improve sinus health. The Sinus Health Series answers your most frequently asked questions ranging from allergy symptoms to allergen prevention tips. Dr. Bennett gives patients help in avoiding the allergy problems that lead to sinusitis.
The first installment in Dr. Bennett’s Sinus Health Series focuses on pollen and the fact you need to know to survive pollen allergy season without suffering from painful sinus infections.
What is Pollen?
Traditionally, springtime is viewed as one of the most beautiful times of the year is when the snow has melted, flowers are in bloom, and everybody anxiously awaits the arrival of sunshine and warm weather.
However, for many, spring marks the beginning of allergy season.
Frequent sufferers of acute and chronic sinusitis report an increased amount of sinus congestion and pain during the spring. One out of seven people experience pollen allergy, and there is a lot to know in terms of symptoms and allergen exposure prevention to ease your sinus pain.
Pollen is an airborne allergen, and is widely known as the most shared allergy trigger. Scientists describe it as a powder-like substance released by plants during reproduction.
Some plants contain more pollen than others. For example, weeds, grasses, ragweed, oak trees and cedar wood contain the most pollen. Once the pollen is dispersed, it is picked up by the wind and airborne pollen can be transferred into our respiratory system.
Pollen can be a potent allergen
How does pollen affect our bodies?
Treating a pollen allergy has changed over the years in response to the larger amount of people suffering as a result of the allergy.
It is suspected that more people are developing seasonal allergies to substances like pollen, based on the changes in the way we live as compared to thousands of years ago, when, temperature was unable to be controlled. Humans had to rely solely on the change in seasons to feel warmth or heat.
Today, air conditioning and forced air installed in our houses forces our noses to continually adapt to swift and unexpected changes in temperature and humidity. This in turn affects our mucus membranes and nasal passage lining.
Specifically, pollen affects the sinuses due to the minuscule pieces of pollen that enter the nasal cavities and airways and aggravate the delicate mucus membranes in your nose. Research studies indicate that sinus infections due to pollen allergies generally develop first in the maxillary sinuses, the two bigger openings near to the nose directly behind the cheeks and cheekbones.
What is a pollen count?
The likelihood of pollen exposure is even higher if the “pollen count” in the air is particularly high that day. Pollen counts are highest during the months of October and March, meaning that the air quality is not as clean as it is during the remaining months, increasing your chances of a sinus infection. The amount of pollen in the air also largely depends on time of day or weather.
The pollen count is a figure typically reported by the news, and is an important number for allergy sufferers. It is a numerical count of the amount of pollen in the air, calculated based on rainfall, humidity, temperature and other various ecological factors. You can follow the local or the national pollen count on-line.
Paying close attention to the pollen count is important because if the pollen count is high on a particular day, and you know your allergies are heightened at this time of year, it is best to stay indoors to avoid the plants and trees that commonly carry pollen. Specifically, morning hours between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and days that are particularly dry or windy should be avoided.
Pollen count is highest in the mornings on windy days
What are the symptoms of a pollen allergy?
Pollen can be both an allergy and irritant to your sinuses. Your exposure to pollen can thus trigger either acute or chronic sinusitis (the inflammation of the sinus cavities).
- Itchy, swollen or watery eyes
- Itchy nose and throat
- Dark circles under the eyes
- “Stuffy” nose
- Difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Asthma attacks (for those with severe allergies)
- Sleeplessness, fatigue and irritability
Five tips on a pollen allergies
Due to modern medicine, we are not without hope, and finding relief is possible for those with common pollen allergies. The standard recommendations for those with a pollen allergy are listed below:
Antihistamines and decongestants – over-the-counter and/or prescription medications are the standard treatment response to pollen allergy symptoms
Saline nasal rinses – this method of treatment helps flush pollens out of the nose
Maintaining an allergy-free living environment – by dusting regularly, changing bedding and sheets regularly, and installing a HEPA filtration system, among others
Hot showers, showers, steam rooms – these places help primarily with your congestion symptoms, since steam relaxes the blocked mucus in your nasal passages, and allows it to drain properly. Note that this treatment is only temporary in nature and ought to be combined with others to effectively eliminate your sinus infection.
Change your clothes and shower after being outdoors – changing and bathing allows you to escape any pollen that may have clung to your skin, hair or clothes; note that this is also a temporary solution and is merely preventative in nature.
Luckily there are many ways to treat pollen allergies
Dr. Bennett encourages you to follow the above tips for prevention and treatment of your pollen allergy so that you can finally look forward to the spring season. Empower yourself by working to eliminate your sinus problems by improving your sinus health so you may enjoy the beautiful sunlight and outdoors as nature sheds its winter skin and comes to life!