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Allergies, asthma, and pollen

Alternative names

Allergic rhinitis - pollen

Pollens

Things that make allergies or asthma worse are called triggers. It is important to know your triggers because avoiding them is your first step toward feeling better.

Pollen is a trigger for many people who have allergies and asthma. The types of pollens that are triggers vary from person to person and from region to region. Plants that may trigger hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and asthma include:

  • Some trees
  • Some grasses
  • Weeds
  • Ragweed

Watch the weather and the season

The amount of pollen in the air can affect whether you or your child has hay fever and asthma symptoms.

  • On hot, dry, windy days, more pollen is in the air.
  • On cool, rainy days, most pollen is washed to the ground.

Different plants produce pollen at different times of the year.

  • Most trees produce pollen in the spring.
  • Grasses usually produce pollen during the late spring and summer.
  • Ragweed and other late-blooming plants produce pollen during late summer and early fall.

When pollen levels are high

The weather report on TV or on the radio often has pollen count information. Or you can look it up online. When pollen levels are high:

  • Stay indoors and keep doors and windows closed. Use an air conditioner if you have one.
  • Save outside activities for late afternoon or after a heavy rain. Avoid the outdoors between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  • Do not dry clothes outdoors. Pollen will stick to them.
  • Have someone who does not have asthma cut the grass. Or wear a face mask if you must do it.

Keep grass cut short or replace your grass with a ground cover. Choose a ground cover that does not produce much pollen, such as Irish moss, bunch grass, or dichondra.

If you buy trees for your yard, look for tree types that will not make your allergies worse, such as:

  • Crape myrtle, dogwood, fig, fir, palm, pear, plum, redbud, and redwood trees
  • Female cultivars of ash, box elder, cottonwood, maple, palm, poplar or willow trees

References

Corren J, Baroody FM, Pawankar R. Allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. In: Adkinson NF Jr., Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al., eds. Middleton's Allergy Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2013: chap 42.

Reisacher WR. Allergy treatment: environmental control strategies. Otolaryngol Clin N Am. 2011;44:711-725.

Updated: 5/18/2014

Stuart I. Henochowicz, MD, FACP, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology, Georgetown University Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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