Sure, you know pollen causes allergies and will cover your car certain times of the year. But a lot of people don’t really know much about pollen! Keep reading if you’d like to learn more!


Pollen is very lightweight, and floats around easily. The wind can cause spread of pollen over hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles. Some pollen, like ragweed, is more allergenic than others. This means it can cause more symptoms for allergy sufferers, even if there is not very much of it in the air.   Before rainstorms, wind often kicks up the pollen. After rainstorms, the pollen is wet and heavy and stays on the ground.


When pollen floats around, it sticks to our skin, eyes, and inside our upper respiratory track (nose, throat) and lower respiratory tract (lungs). Our immune system responds to allergies by releasing inflammatory cells and causing swelling, inflammation, congestion, and mucous production.


Flowering plants tend to be less allergenic overall, because they do not release a lot of airborne pollen. Flowers have heavier pollen, and rely on insects likes bees to carry the pollen. In Arizona, many residents blame palo verde trees for all the pollen, when it is really usually other trees causing the problem! This is also why local honey is actually not effective to treat allergies. Since it is produced from flower pollen, it contains too little airborne pollen to actually help treat symptoms. Using local honey or bee pollen to treat or cure allergies is a big myth!


Some pollen can cause food reactions, a condition called oral allergy syndrome. This occurs with certain fresh fruits or vegetables causing itchy mouth or itchy throat, because the protein structure resembles pollen structure. This condition is also called food pollen syndrome.


Some plants, like birch trees, only pollinate a few weeks each year when others, like bermuda grass, pollinate almost all year long.  Research shows that pollen counts are rising and pollen is becoming more allergenic. Climate change and pollution is partially to blame for this.


The only way to know if you have pollen allergy and what specific plant types you are allergic to is to have allergy testing. Allergy testing is usually done via skin-prick testing and is best done in an allergy clinic, by board-certified allergists. There are many companies who promote allergy testing, but unless it is done properly with an allergist, the results may be very inaccurate.  Once you get tested, your provider can review the results and recommend any environmental control measures that may help. Depending on what you are allergic to, testing can give you insight on when is the best time to start taking daily allergy medications. Your team at AAAI can help come up with the best treatment plan for you, including medications, allergy drops, or allergy shots!