What Exactly Is a Pollen Allergy?

Guest Author: Kristen Stewart

A lot of people get the sniffles seasonally. They might blame it on catching a cold. And they might not have the same symptoms as a lot of other people, too. But there’s reason to dive deeper into what those symptoms are and whether or not they might be something different than a cold – namely, seasonal allergies, such as a reaction to pollen.

   Pollen is a natural substance; if you’ve ever looked at a flower bloom you’ve probably seen pollen. It’s yellow and acts as a fertilizer between male and female plants. It’s definitely on the upswing in spring, summer, and fall, and it’s incredibly common across the country. When it gets hotter and windier, it blows around, too, making it almost impossible to avoid. That means tens of millions of people are likely to have some reaction to pollen.

Want to know more about it?

This graphic explains it.


Allergies occur when harmless water-soluble proteins released by pollen enter the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth. If you’re susceptible to allergies, your immune system mistakes pollen for invading germs. Your body triggers a complex process whereby it generates chemicals such as histamine to irritate the nerves, which leads to itching and sneezing in an attempt to expel the pollen.5 6

Symptoms of a pollen allergy vary from person to person. You may experience bouts of sneezing. This seemingly annoying reaction helps physically expel the pollen from your system, and it also serves as a red flag to tell you there is a high pollen count and you should leave the area if possible.7 In conjunction with sneezing, you may experience additional issues with your nose and eyes. To learn more about these symptoms, visit our Understanding Allergy Symptoms page.8Pollen Allergy Symptoms.


Many people wonder if pollen allergies are genetic. Researchers are still studying this question, but studies suggest that yes, a hereditary component is involved. Having a blood relative with allergies or asthma increases your risk of having one or more allergies — though the specific type is not passed down, just the increased odds. To complicate the matter more, prolonged exposure to the allergen also plays a role in whether or not you develop allergies. Even if you have a genetic susceptibility, you may not develop a problem if you mostly avoid the allergen. Having asthma, atopic dermatitis, and/or allergies to other triggers can also increase your risk.9

If you’ve made it into your 20s, 30s, or 40s without allergies, you may wonder if you’re home free. Not necessarily. It is possible for adults to develop allergies to pollen and other triggers even into middle age. In general, the number of individuals suffering from hay fever is increasing in both the United States and around the world.10

Experts aren’t sure why numbers are rising but speculate more airborne pollutants and dust mite populations coupled with less ventilation in our homes and workplaces could play a role. Unhealthy habits including poor diet and not enough exercise may also contribute. The hygiene hypothesis — the idea that we live and eat in a relatively sanitary environment, so our immune systems don’t have enough work to do and instead overreact to allergens — is another possibility. Other theories include finally reaching an exposure threshold for an allergy to develop, living in a new area with different trees, plants, and grasses, or adopting a pet.11

Once you reach middle age, however, your chance of developing allergies to pollen decreases. The immune system weakens as you grow older, so it’s less likely for it to experience a hyper-allergic reaction.12


The good news? There are many ways you can manage and treat pollen allergies.


Life with allergies is miserable but instead of waiting for pollen to stop falling to resume your activities, try some of these suggestions to take charge of your life today. Maybe you’ll find spring isn’t so bad after all.

Kristen Stewart

Kristen Stewart is a freelance writer specializing in health and lifestyle topics. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, three kids and two very needy cats.


Thank you for sharing Kristin!

Is dental anesthesia safe?

If you have visited a dentist and ever been told “You have a cavity” (or anything beyond), chances are that you have had an injectible anesthesia.

As this is such a standard practice, most of us haven’t given much thought to it. After all, dental anesthetic has been used for over 100 years. They must be safe… right?

Up until my dentist visit yesterday I would have said “yes”.
At this particular appointment however, when the needle was being pulled out of my jaw and the injection began to set in – weird would not even begin to describe how I felt.

It was like I was beginning to fade out of the room, I felt dizzy and light. My eyes would not focus and there were doubles, one on top of the other vertically. I debated if I should say something. I decided to just breathe.

After a few minutes the numbness started to kick in and my faculties seemed to return, but that was a very uncomfortable and slightly scary feeling, one which prompted me to do some research on the subject.

I assumed what they had given me was Novocain… 
Novocain is a local anesthetic (painkiller) used by doctors and dentists. It was developed as a substitute for cocaine, which was the original dental anesthetic, in 1905 by German researcher Alfred Einhorn. The trade name Novocain came from the Latin word “novus,” meaning “new,” plus “cocaine.” Apparently, however, Novocain has not been common practice to administer for well over 30 years now. What I received was Lidocaine.

Currently the commonly used local anesthetic solutions are:
Lidocaine (Xylocaine)
Used for blocks and infiltrations; however, effectiveness of analgesia is limited and of brief duration.
Contraindications and side effects: Not to be used with antidepressants or MAOI’s – as it may produce prolonged high blood pressure.
-feeling lightheaded
-low blood pressure
-double vision
-abnormal heart beats
-slow heart beat
-heart block
-severe allergic reactions
-respiratory arrest

Prilocaine with felypressin 
Used for blocks and infiltrations, effective analgesia over 90 minutes.
Side effects:
-Swelling and persistent paresthesia of lips
-cardiovascular effects
-allergic-type reactions
-neurological effects

Articaine with epinephrine (Septocaine)
Currently recommended for infiltration only. It is ideal where blocks are contraindicated.
Side effects:
• tongue pain or swelling, mouth sores;
• nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, upset stomach;
• increased thirst, drooling;
• nervousness, dizziness, drowsiness;
• ear pain, neck pain, joint or muscle pain;
• unusual or unpleasant taste in your mouth;
• numbness or tingly feeling;
• mild skin rash or itching; or runny nose, sore throat.
• Weak or shallow breathing
• slow heart rate, weak pulse;
• feeling like you might pass out;
• swelling in your face;
• swollen or bleeding gums;
• anxiety, confusion, restless feeling, tremors or shaking;
• blurred vision, ringing in your ears; or
• seizure (convulsions).

Bupivacaine (sensorcaine) 
Used where up to 8 hours of anesthesia is required – mostly for major surgeries.
Side effects:
• nausea
• vomiting
• headache
• back pain
• dizziness
• problems with sexual function
• weak or shallow breathing
• fast heart rate
• gasping
• feeling unusually hot
• slow heart rate
• weak pulse
• feeling restless or anxious
• ringing in the ears
• metallic taste
• speech problems
• numbness or tingling around your mouth
• tremors
• feeling light-headed
• fainting
• problems with urination

Of course, the majority will not experience anything unusual and this is not a reason to panic. Dentists are trained doctors and will know how to deal with a reaction. In retrospect, after writing this article I highly advise you to speak up and say something if you begin to experience anything out of the norm …Then calm yourself with breathing.

Make sure to tell your dentist and or hygienist if you are pregnant, on any medications or have any known allergies and that they are clearly listed in your chart.




Dental MythBuster #4 – Dentists Still Use Novocaine