The human immune system is in principle there to combat pathogens. In the case of allergies the immune system reacts incorrectly in that it reacts strongly to harmless substances. In the case of pollen allergy, the trigger is the pollen of various plants. These are plants that multiply via wind pollination and therefore release large amounts of pollen. Accordingly, pollen allergies have a strictly seasonal course, meaning that the pollen allergy sufferer only has symptoms during the flowering period of the plants to which they respond.
The pollen makes contact with the mucous membranes of the respiratory system and the eyes via the airway and can cause the following symptoms: runny nose (hay fever), conjunctivitis, cough, bronchitis, shortness of breath (asthma), and skin rashes.
Flowering period of trees
The flowering period is heavily dependent on the weather conditions. The pollen count is more pronounced in warm, fair weather. Hazel and alder bloom sooner – the first concentrations can already be seen in January; however, the strongest ones are caused by birch pollen from mid-March to late April. Tree pollen allergy sufferers often additionally suffer from food allergies to botanically related plant foods, e.g. hazelnuts, apples (see category food allergy).
Flowering period of grasses
The most common pollen allergy. Since grasses are botanically related to the cereals, allergy sufferers also respond to various grain pollens (such as rye pollen). This does not mean, however, that a food allergy exists against grain products (bread, etc.).
Flowering period of weeds
In Austria, the allergy to mugwort and ragweed, two species-related herbaceous plants, dominates. The allergy to mugwort pollen is sometimes linked to food allergies, namely to celery and spices (especially herbs, see section “food allergy”). In eastern Austria the influence of ragweed pollen is increasing.
A pollen allergy should be treated, as the allergy may otherwise increase from year to year. Slight pollen allergies can be influenced by the use of eye drops and nasal sprays, even allergy tablets (antihistamines) eliminate the symptoms quickly. With stronger pollen allergies and increasing complaints, a vaccination treatment is advisable.
The allergy situation should be checked by means of allergy tests every 1-2 years.
- Take advantage of pollen information services.
- Plan your vacation during the flowering season. At the seaside and in the mountains the air remains pollen-free. Use the international pollen schedule for planning your holiday; otherwise, you could experience an allergy surprise at the resort.
- Sleep with the windows closed.
- The highest concentrations of pollen in rural areas are expected in the late evening, while early in the morning in urban areas
- Wash hair frequently, remove clothing outside of the bedroom, do not dry fresh laundry outdoors.
- Have your car equipped with a pollen air filter.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat – this also protects against pollen.
- If possible, avoid outdoor sports; however, running in the forest is preferable to running in the open (filter effect).
- Take note of allergen correlations between pollen and food.