Trees, plants, flowers, grass, weeds … and spring or autumn; for whom does the bell tolls? If you are one of those for whom danger sirens are blazing than you are not alone! In fact, you can have millions friend on Facebook; yes, there are numerous people like you (about one in every seven) all over the globe who are allergic to pollens. Read on to know more about it.
What is pollen, you may ask. Simply put, it is an infinitesimal grain that plants produces in order to breed. Harmless looking plants, such as trees, grass and weeds that are without flowers, release allergy causing pollens. These floras manufacture tiny, near spherical granules that are light and small enough to be carried away by wind, often to great distances (over 600km) and bizarrely to heights over 3km. A typical allergenic plant, for example rag weed, can generate millions of pollens. Plants pollinate around spring and fall every year.
That said what an allergy is and what is an allergic reaction?
The former is sensitivity or response to a usually safe matter i.e. a substance that does not creates problems for most.
While an allergic reaction is the body’s reacting to a false alarm. Our immune system, which is the defence of human biological structure, attacks the allergen by releasing large amounts of antibody named as IgE. In contrast, non-allergic people have a very low level of IgE in their blood streams. When this antibody attaches itself with allergy causing molecules, our body generates chemicals that are the root cause of different symptoms associated with pollen allergy i.e. sneezing, water eyes, stiffness etc.
The allergen (the foreign substance that provokes a reaction) can be a food, dust particles, a drug, insect venom, or mould spores, as well as pollen. Allergic people often have sensitivity to more than one substance.This raises a natural question that why most people is not affected by these allergens?
It is the opinion of scientists that some inherit likelihood to be affected by some allergen. It has been scientifically proven that, off springs of allergic families have greater chances of developing complications, as compared to other children. It does not matter whether one or both parents have an allergy to pollens. In fact, a child has a 25 percent chance of having this sensitivity if only one parent has allergies. In addition to, contact with allergy inducing elements early in the childhood can be a cause of development of pollen sensitivities. Thirdly, if a body is exposed to allergens when its defence are low, a situation common in puberty, pregnancy and infection etc., there are increased chances of getting allergic. However, there have been some cases where the children had no pollen allergy despite both of their parents having it. Similarly, new generation often exhibit a dissimilar sensitivity than the allergies of its parents. It has been observed by scientists that people who spend a large time amidst allergic pollen producing plants, these people may include botanists or gardeners; they may acquire hay fever later in life. Moreover, allergic populace often exhibit aversion to other culprits such as dust or roaches.
Symptoms of pollen allergy are common and may include sneezing with a watery nose; itchiness in eyes, throats and nose; dark circles under the eyes; watery eyes and red – boundary eyes (called Conjunctivitis). The mechanism of acquiring a pollen allergy has been well studied: tiny allergy causing pollens, carried by wind, enter our throats and ears and strike the body’s inner and sensitive surfaces. Resultantly, a chain like process occurs ultimately ending in those membranes secreting histamine, prostaglandins and leukotriene. Histamine is an inflammatory chemical that causes nasal blockage (and swelling), irritation and runny noses. Rarely, this aggravates to instigate an asthma attack.
As explained above, this is due to the over reaction of our immune defense and in non – allergic people, lubricant in their throats and noses just carries the pollens away to stomachs or back to mouth where they are coughed out. In Sweden, pollen count is highest around mid – May and around 1.12 million of the total populace can have some degrees of pollen allergy. Research shows that Birch pollen is responsible for a high number of hay fever patients.
Scientific endeavour is underway to find cures for allergies and it is heartening to note that encouraging results have been obtained. So far modifying pollen extracts to make them efficient in Immunotherapy has been very well studied and researchers are hopeful that they can develop new safer and efficient techniques for patient treatment.
In the end, good comes out of evil as well. That is true here because scientists have understood a great deal of our immune system by studying the pollen allergic volunteers and many great inventions in medicine and biology are a fruit of that endeavours.