Asthma Due to Plant Pollens

Plant pollen is an important cause for triggering allergic asthma. Free airborne plant pollen allergen easily get carried by wind, interact with other particles including diesel exhaust carbon particles, thus providing a further transport mechanism for the allergens to gain access into human bronchial tubes, thereby causing asthmatic attacks.

What is plant pollen?

Throughout the year, especially before spring, tiny microscopic particles are released from trees, weeds, and grasses. These particles, known as pollen, catch a free ride on air and other carriers. These particles unknowingly enter human noses and throats, triggering a type of seasonal allergic asthma caused by pollen.

The types of pollen that most commonly cause allergic reactions are produced by the plain-looking plants (trees, grasses, and weeds) that do not have showy flowers, and are custom maid for wind transportation.

What affects pollen level?

Weather conditions affect pollen levels. The significant factors influencing pollen level in the same region include wind, humidity, and the proximity to pollen producing vegetation.

Pollen can also be transported indoors through people and pets.

How does pollen trigger asthma? What are the symptoms?

Pollen is a common cause of asthma and produces its effect by means of an allergy. Pollen is an ‘allergen’, which is a harmless substance that sparks off an abnormal allergic reaction in vulnerable people. In the case asthma prone people, the lungs get affected, with the typical asthma symptoms of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and difficulty in breathing.

Intact pollen grains carried by the wind may just irritate your nose. However, when the air is humid or it rains, the pollen grains absorb moisture from the air and break apart to release tiny starch granules. These particles are allergens and are small enough to be inhaled into the small airways of the lungs, and can start off asthma symptoms. ‘Thunderstorm asthma’ is a term used to describe the rise in the number of people with asthma symptoms around the time of a thunderstorm.

To add to this, these broken up pollen grains stick to the exhaust particles from engines, to create particles that are more easily inhaled into the lungs.

So high levels of pollen in the air, and high levels of exhaust fumes can make a risk day for people who have pollen-induced asthma.

How to control the impact of pollen on asthma?

* Make sure your asthma is well under control by consulting a doctor before the start of pollen season. Adjust or change your preventive medication to suit the increased exposure you will have to pollen over the coming months.
* Find out which type of pollen can be a problem in your area and try to avoid them by staying indoors and using air purifiers.
* If possible, try to stay indoors and close the doors and windows on windy and humid days.
* Be aware of the times of day that are worse for your asthma during the pollen season. Follow your asthma medication plan as instructed by your doctor.
* If you are prone to pollen asthma, maintain a low allergen garden by growing low allergen plants, and a lawn that needs infrequent or no mowing. Low allergen plants are those that are pollinated by insects or birds, rather than by wind.
* Immunotherapy (injections of very small amounts of pollen allergen over several years to desensitize) is an option for some people with pollen allergy; consult your doctor.
* To help avoid pollen as a trigger for children’s asthma, take special care of them.
Very few children under five have asthma that is triggered by pollen unless they have other allergies or a family history of allergy.

Pollen is difficult to avoid – what are the options?

Preventive strategies:

One of the problems while coping with pollen allergy is how to escape from the stuff because it is impossible to create a pollen-free zone. Pollens of wind-pollinated plants are small and light, easily get carried far and wide; and easily get inhaled right into the lungs.

However, there are several ways in which one can reduce exposure to pollen.

These include:

* Reduce pollen levels in your garden, by growing plants that are not pollinated by wind. You can easily find information on such plants on the internet.
* Stroll around the surrounding areas and get a fair idea about what pollen-producing plants are around, and when do they flower. You can take precautions accordingly.
* Learn about when pollen levels are highest during the day, and avoid venturing out during that time. Levels may be high in the early morning because this is when most grasses pollinate. Pollen counts may also be high in the evening when temperatures fall and the pollen comes down towards ground level.
* Keep windows in your home and car closed to lower exposure to pollen. To keep cool, use air conditioners and purifiers.
* Be aware that pollen can also be transported indoors through people and pets.
* Dry your clothes in an automatic dryer rather than hanging them outside. Pollen can also collect on clothing and be carried indoors