How do I reduce exposure to pollens?


by Suresh C. Anand, M.D.

Approximately 80 percent of allergies are caused by inhalants such as pollens, molds, animal dander, and house dust mites.

Pollens are difficult to avoid because they are in the air. Plants which cause allergies usually produce light pollen grains which are wind borne (not insect borne). In order to survive, these plants are prolific and produce massive amounts of pollen, which can travel hundreds of miles. In most parts of the country, trees pollinate in the spring, grasses in summer, and weeds in the fall. In Arizona, due to warmer weather, we have long pollen seasons, almost all year around. Also, we have two weed seasons—spring and fall!!

The following guidelines will reduce pollen exposure:

  • Stay indoors during the high pollen season. Keep doors and windows closed.
  • Central air conditioning is better than evaporative cooling. Avoid window fans or attic fans which can draw pollen into homes. Exhaust fans can be helpful.
  • A good air filter on a central air conditioning system, or a portable filtering until in the bedroom, can be helpful. Use a HEPA (High Energy Particulate Air) filter, or an electrostatic precipitator.
  • Keep car windows closed; use air conditioner on “recirculate” while driving.
  • If possible, let someone else do the outside mowing, sweeping, raking, etc.
  • Wear a good dust mask when mowing the lawn or doing outside work. Take allergy medicine beforehand if possible. Take a shower to wash off any pollen in the hair or on the body. Wear fresh clothes.
  • Don’t hang clothes or bedding outside to dry. They are good pollen catchers.
  • There is increased pollen and mold in the air between 5 and 10 AM. Limit outside activities in early morning. In Arizona certain air conditioned shopping malls are open early in the morning, for people who walk for exercise.
  • Plan your vacations during high pollen seasons and go to a place where, hopefully, there is less pollen to which you are allergic. Talk to your allergist before making such plans.
  • Ask your doctor for medicines which will prevent or decrease allergy symptoms.

Posted in: Allergens

Allergy and the Environment