What Is a Pollen Count, and Why Am I Sneezing?

Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. Some of these allergy sufferers only experience symptoms seasonally. If you have seasonal allergies, or hay fever, it’s important to know the cause of the your symptoms. Talking to your primary care provider and understanding pollen count can help.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology states that roughly 7.8% of U.S. adults over the age of 18 have hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis. Your doctor can help you manage your seasonal allergy symptoms. Click To Tweet

What’s a pollen count?

Pollen count tells you how much pollen is in the air. It measures the grains of pollen per cubic meter of air. Higher pollen counts mean more pollen in the air. People who have been diagnosed with seasonal allergic rhinitis might check pollen counts and pollen forecasts as diligently as they check for rain. However, many people disregard pollen counts and sudden allergy attacks come as a complete surprise.

High amounts of pollen in the air can lead to allergic reactions for people with seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergic rhinitis causes symptoms in spring, summer, and fall when flora release pollen into the air. Most of the pollen that causes allergic reactions comes from grasses, weeds (especially ragweed), and trees.

Talking to a medical professional can help you understand which types of pollen cause your allergic reaction, and show you the value pollen counts and pollen forecasts.

A pollen count is different from a pollen forecast in the same way that reported rainfall differs from a forecast for precipitation. The pollen count is the actual measurement of how much pollen is in the air, where a pollen forecast is a prediction for the types and amounts of pollen that could be in the air in the over the next few days.

Pollen forecasts are based on data from the previous year and general weather forecasts

There are various apps and websites that show you pollen counts and the pollen forecasts.

What are symptoms of seasonal allergies, or hay fever?

Common symptoms for seasonal allergies include:

  • runny nose
  • itchy nose
  • nasal drip
  • red eyes
  • itchy eyes
  • watery eyes
  • swelling around the eyes
  • itchy throat
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • congestion
  • mucus production

What can you do about seasonal allergies?

Here are some actions that you can take to help manage seasonal allergies.

  • Shower before going to sleep. This helps remove pollen from your hair and skin.
  • Wash bedding more frequently when the pollen count is high.
  • Avoid spending time outdoors on days with high pollen counts. This helps reduce your exposure to pollen, which can lessen your symptoms. Reschedule your bike ride, run on a treadmill instead of running outside, or take care of your indoor chores and save the yard work for another day.
  • Keep your windows closed to help reduce exposure to pollen.
  • Even though there are many over the counter allergy medicines, it’s important to talk to your doctor. You can’t diagnose yourself with seasonal allergies. Your primary care provider may recommend a specific allergy medicine, or she may refer you to a specialist for treatment, such as immunotherapy.

Know when to talk to your doctor

A little sniffling isn’t something to worry about, but if your symptoms start to affect your quality of life — you have trouble sleeping, or you find it difficult to concentrate or focus on your daily tasks — you should talk to a medical professional. Your doctor can help you identify the cause of your symptoms and help you take steps to improve your quality of life.

Request an appointment with a doctor in Northwest Arkansas today.