How Do You Know if You are Allergic to Pollen?

Spring and Fall are the prime season for hayfever. People everywhere are sneezing, sniffling and wheezing. The problem is the amount of pollen in the air. How do you know if you are allergic to pollen? First, carefully watch and chart your symptoms and check pollen counts. Try to reduce your exposure and see an allergic for skin prick or blood tests to find out for sure.  Here’s how to know if you are allergic to pollen.

Pay attention to symptoms

As soon as you start to have a runny nose, watery eyes or sneezing take your temperature. If you have a temperature, you don’t have allergies. You have a cold or respiratory infection. Allergies are a false immune system response and they don’t cause a temperature.

If you don’t have a temperature, note your symptoms on the calendar on your phone or use a note app. Then go to Pollen.Com or check your newspaper for the local pollen count. In the Fall, most pollen comes from ragweed plants and trees. Don’t blame those goldenrods, they are beautiful and plentiful but they aren’t a source of allergy-causing pollen. It’s the ragweeds that like to hide in the goldenrod that are the problem.

If you see a pattern of symptoms on moderate pollen count days, chances are you are allergic to pollen. If you have symptoms and the pollen count shows there is no pollen in the air, you probably have allergies, but not to pollen.

if OTC allergy meds help, you might be allergic to pollen

Do OTC remedies provide relief?

If you take an over-the-counter allergy medication and get relief, you are allergic to something.  If your symptoms don’t change with the pollen counts, you are probably allergic to something else. But, if your symptoms ebb and flow with pollen counts, pollen is the likely culprit. So, avoid pollen. Here’s how.

How to avoid pollen

You can stay inside with the windows and doors closed. But, that may not be practical. If you have outdoor activities, try to time them for low pollen count days. Wear a mask like the Q-Mask that was designed to keep pollen out.

qmask blocks pollen easy to put onPollen sticks to your clothes and hair. When you come in, you spread that pollen all over your home. Don’t do that. Instead, when you come inside, shower and change clothes. Wash your hair.  Don’t put pollen-filled clothes in the bedroom. Keep them in the bathroom or laundry room until time to wash.

Hey, don’t forget about those pets either. They bring pollen in on their fur. Brush often and wear a mask when you brush your pet. Keep pets inside as much as possible.

The allergist knows for sure if you are allergic to pollen

The only sure-fire way to know if you are allergic to pollen is to have an allergy test. The allergist can take a blood sample and test for true allergy (that is an IgE-mediated response), but these results aren’t immediate. A skin challenge test will tell you right away if you are allergic to pollen or other common triggers. If you have pollen allergies, immunotherapy may help. Talk to the allergist about sublingual drops or shots to reduce your sensitivity. It’s important to know if you are allergic to pollen so you can control your allergies. Uncontrolled allergies can lead to more serious problems such as asthma or sinus infections.


What is a Dust Allergy?

Achoo!  Darn that dust allergy!  Have you or someone you love ever uttered these words?  We blame dust allergy for many things:

  • Sneezing
  • wheezing
  • itchy, watery eyes
  • coughing
  • stuffy nose
  • runny nose

But exactly what is dust allergy?  Let’s take a look.

Dust Allergy Isn’t Allergy to Dust

To understand dust allergy, you need to understand dust.  “Dust” is a mixture of particles.  The specific composition varies by location.  David Layton and Paloma Beamer, professors of environmental policy at the University of Arizona did a study of dust in the United States to try to figure out what is in the stuff.  It was gross.  As a rule, they found household dust is made up of:

  • tiny bits of shed human skin
  • bits of animal fur and skin
  • decomposing insects
  • food debris
  • fibers from clothes, bedding and other fabrics
  • tracked-in soil
  • soot
  • residual particles from smoking and cooking

Some samples even contained lead, arsenic and  DDT.  Makes you wonder where they were collecting samples, but it was just households in Midwest states and Sacramento California.

So, you don’t really have an allergy to dust, you have an allergy to one or more components of dust.  Most commonly the decomposing insects in the form of dust mites.

dust mites cause dust allergy
Dust Mite

Dust Mites and Dust Mite Allergy

Ever wonder about dust mites?  They are microscopic creatures related to spiders.  Dust mites feed on shed human skin (one of the components of dust). They don’t bite, but their gut contains a protein that they use to digest our skin. This protein (der f1) is the source of the “dust” allergy.  Every time the dust mite poops, a bit of this protein is excreted along with the fecal pellet. Gross right?  The hard cuticle that covers the mite body also contains the protein.  When the dust mite dies, it doesn’t create any additional allergen in the form of fecal matter but it does create an explosion of allergen as the body decomposes.  The allergy-causing protein from the gut and the cuticle are released as the mite rots.  Even grosser.   So many people with dust allergy actually have dust mite allergy.

Pet Allergy

Another major component of household dust are those little bits of animal skin and fur.  Those generally come from household pets.  Certain furred animals have proteins in their saliva and urine that cause allergic reactions in humans.  The proteins most commonly found attached to the skin and fur in house dust are from cats and dogs.  Horses are also a source of allergen, but few people keep a horse in their house.   As the animal grooms its coat or empties its bladder, bits of the saliva or urine stick to skin and fur.  When these are shed they become part of the dust soup.

Control the Allergens to Control the Allergy

So, controlling your dust allergy is all about knowing what in the dust triggers your reaction and then reducing your exposure to that trigger.  You can visit an allergist for testing.  Skin challenge or simple blood tests can pull back the veil on your triggers.  In the case of dust mite or pet allergy, immunotherapy can help.

You can reduce your exposure to the allergens in dust by knowing where the dust in your house comes from and reducing your exposure to dust.  Frequent cleaning with damp rags and vacuuming with a HEPA filtered vacuum machine reduces dust.

You can also use allergy control products.  The Top 5 Allergy Control Products will give you the most relief for the dollar and effort spent.  You should check them out.  Not sure where to start?  Call The Allergy Store at 1-800-771-2246.  We can help.

So, next time you curse that dust allergy, remember it isn’t the dust. It’s what’s in the dust that matters.

Til next time








How Do You Get Eczema?

Eczema is a group of skin conditions that cause the skin to be inflamed and irritated. Doctors call eczema dermatitis and atopic eczema. The word atopic means it usually develops along with something else and dermatitis means it deals with the skin. The word atopic is a clue to how you get eczema, it is usually the result of something else.

Eczema and Allergies

eczema is related to allergies

The reason doctors refer to this condition as “atopic” is because it usually happens as a result of allergies. So, even if hay fever doesn’t have you sneezing or asthma doesn’t have you wheezing, your skin problem is probably a symptom of allergy.

Eczema begins with itching and a rash. Even before the rash shows up, the itching starts. The skin becomes dry. Then the dry skin becomes very thick and comes off in flakes or scales. It shows up on the face or behind the knees or even the wrists and hands. The more it flakes, the more the skin grows back with even thicker flakes. It seems like an endless cycle and it itches. This skin condition occurs in infants and adults.

Your skin is telling you that you are having an allergic reaction. Eczema tends to run in families with a history of asthma or allergies. Eczema is not contagious. If more than one person in the family has it; they didn’t catch it from another family member; they inherited it.

Treating Eczema

Since this is an allergy-related condition, it can’t be cured; but it can be controlled. Avoiding triggers like dust or pollen can help. In small children and infants, eczema is commonly caused by food allergies or allergies to soaps or laundry detergents.

Talk to the doctor about allergy-testing. You may have developed new allergies since your last test. Since avoidance is always key to controlling allergies, it pays to periodically update your allergy testing.

Your doctor may prescribe antihistamines or steroidal creams. Don’t use a hydrocortisone cream without talking to the doctor or pharmacist first. Some of these creams can irritate eczema and make it worse.

paraben free moisturizer relieves eczema

Be Kind to Your Skin

Don’t forget to be kind to your skin. It’s the largest organ in your body.  Don’t wash in very hot water and gently pat skin dry when you are finished. Don’t rub and don’t scrub with the towel. Dermatologists recommend that you apply moisturizer while skin is still damp. Always use a paraben free moisturizer without any fragrance or dye. Parabens, formaldehydes, dyes and fragrances can all irritate your skin or cause an allergic reaction.

During a flare, cold compresses or a soak in a colloidal oatmeal bath are two ways to be especially kind to your skin.

Remember, you don’t get eczema from friends or roommates. This skin condition is not contagious; it is related to allergies and it can run in families.