Newcomers to Memphis are often surprised by how hard the pollen allergies hit in the spring and the fall. Even lifelong residents experience months of misery each year due to the high pollen counts so common to the Memphis area. So what exactly is pollen and why does it affect so many of us? More importantly, what can you do to relieve your allergy symptoms?
What is Pollen?:
Pollen is a powdery substance that is the fertilizing element of most plants. In short, it is the male reproductive cells of the plant. You know that greenish-yellow dust that coats outdoor surfaces in the spring? That's pollen -- specifically tree pollen, most often from oak trees.
Why Does Memphis Have So Much Pollen?:
For the most part, it all goes back to the trees. Memphis is a city with an abundance of trees. While many trees can spark allergies, the oak is one of Memphis' most common culprits. From March until May, oak catkins (the fuzzy little pollen "strings") litter sidewalks, streets, and yards, all over town. Add to that dozens of other allergen producing plants such as ragweed, hickory trees, and any number of grasses -- and you have the perfect environment for high pollen counts.
What Are the Symptoms of a Pollen Allergy?:
A pollen allergy reaction can vary depending upon the individual, as well as the type of pollen. However, these symptoms are extremely common among pollen allergy sufferers: sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, and wheezing. Always see your doctor to confirm your suspicions.
How to Minimize Your Risk of an Allergic Reaction to Pollen:
Though there is no way to completely avoid pollen, these steps can minimize your exposure to it and help to keep it out of your house and your care. When pollen counts are high, stay indoors on windy days and keep your windows closed. Wear a dust mask when mowing the lawn or raking. Keep pets indoors or limit their time outside. Vacuum frequently, using a vacuum cleaner with an allergen-reducing filter. Finally, use an allergen-reducing filter in your home's air conditioning or ventilation system.
Treating Pollen Allergies:
Many times, a pollen allergy can be treated successfully with the use of over the counter allergy medications. Some people prefer to use a daily pill such as Claritin or Zyrtec, while others prefer to treat symptoms as they arise with Sudafed or Benadryl. Always consult your doctor for advice on how to best treat your allergy symptoms.
Sources: The Mayo Clinic and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services