Der Frühling naht, Bäume und Pflanzen beginnen zu blühen - für viele fängt damit auch die Zeit des "Heuschnupfens" an.
Der Früh­ling naht, Bäu­me und Pflan­zen begin­nen zu blü­hen – für vie­le fängt damit auch die Zeit des „Heu­schnup­fens“ an.Foto 132308045 © Volo­dym­yr Tver­dokh­lib – Dreamstime.com [Dream­sti­me RF]

Fact #1: Terminology

In spring, we gene­ral­ly refer to so-cal­led “hay fever”. Howe­ver, doc­tors stop­ped using this term some time ago. The rea­son: many peop­le have all­er­gic reac­tions to the pol­len of several flowe­ring plants and are not, as was pre­vious­ly thought, exclu­si­ve­ly all­er­gic to hay and grass pol­len. Addi­tio­nal­ly, even during cli­ma­ti­cal­ly mil­der times, the last grass and herb pol­len is still floa­ting in the air in late Novem­ber, while the first hazel pol­len alrea­dy appears at the begin­ning of Decem­ber. As a result, many peop­le strugg­le with the sym­ptoms of a pol­len all­er­gy for almost the ent­i­re year.

Fact #2: Occurrence

In Ger­ma­ny, more than 12 mil­li­on peop­le suf­fer from all­er­gy sym­ptoms. This amounts to around 15 % of the total popu­la­ti­on. Child­ren and young peop­le bet­ween the ages of 8 and 16 are the most affec­ted. Most recent­ly, the all­er­gy has also beco­me more pre­va­lent among peop­le around the age of 50.

Depen­ding on the all­er­gy, even small amounts of pol­len can alrea­dy be enough to trig­ger a person’s sym­ptoms. All­er­gy suf­fe­rers are most com­mon­ly affec­ted by trees, grass, and herbs.

Fact #3: Triggers

The all­er­gies are cau­sed by pol­len from wind-pol­li­na­ted plants. Unli­ke plants pol­li­na­ted by insects, they must pro­du­ce par­ti­cu­lar­ly lar­ge amounts of pol­len during the flowe­ring peri­od in order to ensu­re pol­li­na­ti­on. Depen­ding on wind speed, the pol­len can tra­vel over 100 km. The only thing they are sus­cep­ti­ble to is rain. Addi­tio­nal­ly, cli­ma­te chan­ge and rising tem­pe­ra­tures are con­tri­bu­ting to lon­ger flowe­ring peri­ods for most plants.

Fact #4: Symptoms

Pol­len con­tains water-solub­le pro­te­ins which are released through con­ta­ct with the human mucous mem­bra­ne. The pol­len is harm­less to begin with. Howe­ver, for peop­le with all­er­gies, it results in the deve­lo­p­ment of anti­bo­dies and the release of inflamma­to­ry sub­s­tan­ces. The release of a secre­ti­on cau­ses all­er­gy suf­fe­rers to expe­ri­ence itching or snee­zing, as well as red­de­ning of the mucous membrane.

The fol­lowing sym­ptoms are also typi­cal for a pol­len allergy:

  • A blo­cked or run­ning nose
  • Itching or wate­ry eyes, con­junc­ti­val redness
  • Itching or stinging in the mouth or throat and in the ear canals
  • Dry cough and short­ness of breath
  • Skin red­ness, wor­se­ning of neurodermatitis
  • Tired­ness, hea­da­ches and aching lim­bs, lack of sleep

Fact #5: Treatment and prevention

The best and most important way of avoiding sym­ptoms is to avoid the trig­gers. Here are a few tips on how to do that:

  • It’s important to keep your bedroom most­ly free of pol­len. Win­dows should be kept shut, or only be ope­ned for ven­ti­la­ti­on ear­ly in the morning or late in the evening. As pol­len sticks to hair and clot­hing, it is advi­s­able to wash your hair befo­re going to bed and to chan­ge your clothes out­side the bedroom. Bed­ding should also be chan­ged regularly.
  • Fur­ther­mo­re, laund­ry should not be hung out to dry out­side. While dri­ving, win­dows should also be kept shut and out­door acti­vi­ties should ide­al­ly be sche­du­led for befo­re 8 am in towns after 6 pm in the countryside.

The sym­ptoms of a pol­len all­er­gy can also be tem­pora­ri­ly alle­via­ted by medi­ca­ti­on. Using sali­ne nasal sprays and nasal rinsing is recom­men­ded. A fur­ther pos­si­ble tre­at­ment is spe­ci­fic immu­no­the­ra­py with all­er­gens, during which the immu­ne sys­tem is sup­po­sed to grow accus­to­med to the pol­len. First, it must be estab­lis­hed which all­er­gens the body is reac­ting to. The affec­ted per­son is then given the all­er­gens eit­her via injec­tion, or as a tablet or through drops. While the­re is no gua­ran­tee of suc­cess for this kind of tre­at­ment, it is meant to redu­ce sym­ptoms long term and also pre­vent against other all­er­gens. The down­si­de: this kind of the­ra­py is car­ri­ed out over several years and so requi­res pati­ence and perseverance.

Quel­le: Euro­pean Cent­re for All­er­gy Rese­arch Foun­da­ti­on (ecarf.org); MDR Wissen

Bild-Unter­ti­tel: Spring is approa­ching, trees and plants are star­ting to bloom – for many peop­le, this is also the start of the “hay fever” season.