Pollen allergies: what to do to relieve symptoms?

With the arrival of the heyday, it is thus no less than 12 million French people who have eyes that cry, a throat that tingles and a runny nose. What to do in case of pollen allergy symptoms? What are some good reflexes to relieve a runny nose or itchy eyes?

It is estimated that 20% of the French population has an allergy to pollen and each year, the frequency of occurrence of pollen allergies increases. Fortunately, solutions exist and are diversifying.

Since this spring 2020, allergy sufferers are particularly bothered by pollens, as evidenced by the 2020 pollen map. One of the worst years according to allergists. In question ? Weather conditions. The winter was mild, as was the spring, which favored the release of pollens. Another reason: stress related to the Covid-19 pandemic according to specialists, which tends to weaken the immune system. Finally, the closure of the green spaces left the plants maintenance-free. Result: a much higher amount of pollen than usual!


What is a pollen allergy?

Allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction of the body. On contact with the eyes or the respiratory tract, pollens cause more or less disabling inflammatory reactions. In spring and summer many sensitive people suffer from pollen allergy, as in. This seasonal allergy occurs mainly in the spring, but it can last for several months, sometimes until the fall. The more the temperature is mild, even hot, and drier, the higher the pollen concentration: at certain periods, we can find nearly 1000 pollen grains per cubic meter of air, while 5 grains are enough for symptoms to appear .

What are the symptoms of a pollen allergy?

The hay fever, with its series of symptoms, is triggered by pollens from trees, shrubs or grasses which, as early as spring, are suspended in the air. They enter the respiratory tract, by inhalation, causing in sensitive people inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eyes and the nasal mucosa. Hence these watery, prickly eyes, this “fountain” or on the contrary obstructed nose, and this itchy irritated throat. As a result, and it is often overlooked, chopped nights and therefore sometimes significant fatigue. “As in all allergies, the body reacts inappropriately, releasing histamine and other inflammatory substances” , explains Dr Isabelle Bossé, president of the union of allergists.

In mild forms, this results in allergic rhinitis, the symptoms of which are:

  • sneezing
  • congested nose
  • clear runny nose
  • watery eyes

Some people are more sensitive to respiratory symptoms triggered by pollens. Indeed, any patient with respiratory fragility sees his risk increase. This is particularly the case for asthmatics.

The 5 signs of allergic rhinitis can be memorized with the word PAREO.
– P for pruritus (itching of the eyes, nose and even the palate).
– A for anosmia (loss of smell).
– R for rhinorrhea (clear nasal discharge).
– E for sneezing.
– O as nasal obstruction (stuffy nose).

Pollens from trees (February to May), grasses (May to July) and grasses (July to October) occupy the land for more than half the year. But you are certainly not allergic to everything. This is why it is important to identify the allergens that trigger your seizures, by carrying out tests with a doctor.

Is it normal to feel tired?

Pollen allergy sufferers often complain of being tired. Be careful, this symptom should not be confused with drowsiness, sometimes consecutive to taking antihistamines. So where does fatigue come from? In fact, it is linked to other symptoms: sleep is affected, there are more night awakenings, and therefore the fatigue generated increases.

How is the diagnosis made?

The allergological assessment immediate reading (also called a prick-test) consists in applying to the skin extracts of allergens that we can breathe (pollens, mites, animal hair …). The allergist doctor then makes them penetrate under the skin by making a small painless scratch.

If the result is positive, a small button appears in less than 30 minutes at the location of the allergen concerned.

A positive allergic test should always be confronted with the symptoms and the circumstances of their appearance before declaring that you are allergic and considering treatment. For example, a positive grass test will have no diagnostic value if your rhinitis is permanent throughout the year, because if it were really an allergy to grass pollen, the discomfort would be limited to spring.

Note: if you take antihistamines, you will have to stop them at least a week before doing the allergic assessment otherwise, you risk making the tests false negative.

What treatments for pollen allergy?

The only long-term treatment for pollen allergy is desensitization. It consists in bringing the body into contact with the allergen regularly, at a low dose, over several years, so that the body no longer recognizes the allergen as an enemy.

The other solutions remain symptomatic treatments, consisting in limiting the symptoms of hay fever over time. To try to escape these small allergic irritations that prevent you from enjoying the return of the sun with complete peace of mind, start by regularly rinsing your nose with physiological saline or one with seawater spray with added manganese.

Antihistamines can also reduce the allergic reaction, as can cortisone derivatives in case of more severe respiratory symptoms. The antihistamines may be available in pharmacies without prescription.

  • What to do ? If these symptoms appear for the first time and persist for more than a week, ask your pharmacist. He will recommend a nasal wash (physiological serum), an eye wash solution (Dacryoserum …) or / and an antihistamine (cetirizine, desloratadine) for a maximum of 7 days. One tablet per day (one dose of syrup or oral solution for children from 5 years of age).
  • If the discomfort persists, it is better to consult your general practitioner. He may prescribe a latest generation antihistamine (bilastine, ebastine, rupatadine), one tablet per day until symptoms disappear. Depending on their intensity, he will add nasal corticosteroids (beclomethasone, fluticasone, budesonide) and eye drops (sodium cromogly-cate, ketotifen, levocabastine).

What to do daily to relieve a pollen allergy?

Pollen allergy, also known as hay fever, can be very bothersome on a daily basis. To fight against allergies, natural remedies and tricks from grandmother have proven their effectiveness.

Certain plants reduce the frequency of allergic attacks. To relieve pollen allergies, tarragon is a good solution. It acts as an anti-allergen thanks to its components such as coumarin and flavones. The thyme, a natural expectorant, helps decongest the respiratory tract. To relieve the respiratory tract, essential oil lavender true is also very effective. To fight against runny nose, nettle is the ideal remedy. Theelderberry infusion and apple cider vinegar The extracts of butterbur leaf, to be taken in the form of capsules, are also recognized for their positive action in case of allergy to pollen.

And also these gestures can help you to better support your allergy:

  • Ventilate the house at the end of the day
  • Find out about weather conditions before a country walk
  • Wear sunglasses when you go out
  • Close windows when mowing the lawn
  • Avoid sleeping with the window open if the bed is near the window
  • Wash your hair often to remove pollen (before going to bed so as not to scatter it on the pillow)
  • Avoid rolling the window open or riding a bicycle

The list of the main allergenic pollens

Plant species with allergenic pollen that can be considered as very high, are the following :

  • grasses;
  • birch (mainly in the northern part of France);
  • cypress, thuja, juniper and other cupressaceae (mainly in the southern part of France);
  • sagebrush with ambrose leaves in areas infested by this invasive plant.

The species towards which the allergic risk can be considered as Student in France are as follows:

  • the counterparty (mainly in the southern part of France);
  • the olive tree (mainly in the southern part of France);
  • l’armoise ;
  • alder;
  • hazelnut;
  • charm ;
  • the plane tree (locally, the number of trees has greatly decreased in recent years);
  • lamb’s quarters, amaranth and other species of the family Amaranthaceae (increasing);
  • the plantain.

Sources :

-Asthma and Allergies Association

-Ministry of Health

-Interview with Dr Isabelle Bossé, President of the French Syndicate of Allergists (May 2019)

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