Everyone is familiar with grass pollen allergy, or hay fever as it is commonly known. The symptoms are plain to see. Sneezing, itchy, red eyes, runny nose and sometimes a bad attack can Trigger Asthma. Most of the antihistamine manufacturers target hay fever sufferers as their main market with pictures of sneezing people on the packets, bottles, inhalers and nose sprays.
It is estimated that about 12 million people in the UK are allergic to the country’s 150 species of grasses, which have their peak pollen releasing periods between the beginning of June and the end of July each year.
However, allergy specialists have noted that more and more people, particularly children, are reacting to the tree pollen season, which comes before the grasses. The peak periods for tree pollen release are as follows:
- March – Hazel, Yew, Elm, Alder and Willow
- March/April – Poplar
- April – Birch and Ash
- April/May – Oak
- May – Pine
Tree pollen affects the body in the same way as other pollen, in that it causes the cells to flood with histamine, which in turn creates an inflammatory response. But because tree pollens are larger than grass pollens, they often seem to affect the body in different ways from the typical hay fever response. Therefore your child could be displaying a histamine reaction during the listed months if they complain of feeling persistently unwell and have any of the following symptoms:
- Sense of anxiety caused by rapid heart beat, dizziness or hyperactivity
- Skin sensations such as itching, burning, flushing or shivering
- Stomach pain or cramps
- Joint pains
Often, tree pollen sufferers describe their symptoms as “feeling as though they have flu” or they think they are “coming down with a cold”.
Not Just a Rural Problem
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that only rural dwellers suffer from tree pollen allergy. Recent studies have indicated that people living in urban areas suffer more because the pollen combines with pollutants like petrol and diesel fumes to make the pollen even more allergenic.
Diesel fumes, particularly, have been identified as capturing the pollen and keeping it down at street level, whereas it would normally rise up on the warm spring and summer air during the day. Many urban schools, situated in tree-lined streets that are also busy with traffic, have reported a significant rise in the number of children taking antihistamines and asthma medications.
How to Take Action Against Pollens
Aside from giving your child an antihistamine syrup at regular intervals, there are other steps you can take to minimize the effects of both tree and grass pollens:
- Don’t let your child play outside during the daily peak periods of pollen release. These are between 6 and 9a.m. when the pollen rises from the ground as the air warms up. In the evening, when the pollen comes down again as the air cools.
- Don’t dry clothes outside. Unfortunately, pollen attaches itself to the clothes in great quantities and your child could be getting a massive dose of allergen when you bring the washing in.
- Don’t have bedroom windows open, particularly during the daily peak periods, as the pollen will lie in an invisible sheet over bedroom carpets and bedding and cause problems during the night.
- Bathe and rinse children’s hair every night before bed to remove all traces of pollen from the body. Large amounts of pollen can settle in hair, so make sure that if your child has long hair it is tied back during the day.
- Dogs and cats need to be brushed every evening with a damp brush, as they pick up a great deal of pollen in their fur.
And finally, try to avoid taking your child to areas of dense motor traffic. If this is not possible, for example during the trip to and from school, then consider either driving with all the windows closed or, if you walk, put a good quality, charcoal filter, cyclist’s face mask on your child for the journey.