Predicting Seasonal Allergy Symptoms is Harder than you Think

Did you know that pollen allergy is a highly personal, individual thing? No two people are likely to be sensitive to exactly the same plant type and species. To understand why this is, let’s explore some of the basic science behind pollen.

What is Pollen?

To the human eye, pollen looks like a fine and powdery yellow substance. In reality, pollen grains contain the genetic code required to produce a new plant. The process of pollination is all about creating new plant offspring (we explain this more here).

Why Does Pollen Make People Sneeze?

Unfortunately for seasonal allergy sufferers, airborne pollen cells are hard to avoid and cause nasty symptoms thanks to their tendency to aggravate noses and inflame airways.

Keep in mind that human bodies are naturally inclined to fight off cells that it perceives to be foreign or threatening. For many of us, this includes pollen particles which cause a histamine reaction.

Is All Pollen Allergic?

The natural mode of pollen distribution plays a big part in whether or not we’re likely to react and experience seasonal allergy symptoms.

  • Pollen could be transported by insects like bees (think cacti, kiwis and potatoes) isn’t typically associated with allergies, as the pollination is targeted (from one flower to the next) and we are not easily exposed to this type of pollen.
  • Other pollen that gets carried by the wind is responsible for the bulk of seasonal allergy symptoms, and is associated with specific grass, weeds and trees.

This means that although hundreds of species of plants release their pollen into the air each year, only a small number of plants are responsible for human allergic response.

No Two Seasonal Allergy Sufferers are the Same

Research has found that not only do different types of pollen show different levels of allergenicity, different people also show different allergic reactions to different pollen types.

This explains why it’s so hard to give universal and broad definitions for ‘seasonal allergy season’. Not only does it depend on the specific micro-climate, it also depends on the specific individual you’re talking about, and the types of pollen that are likely to cause them seasonal allergy symptoms.

So, How Can We Prevent Seasonal Allergy Symptoms?

It’s really important for pollen sensitive groups to understand which plants and species they’re sensitive to in order to manage their exposure and prevent symptoms ahead of time.

To do this, allergy sufferers need access to pollen information that’s broken down by plant and species type (e.g. Birch, Olive, Oak, Ash & more) – and which offers reliable reporting for their exact location.

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Dr Gabriela Adler
Dr Gabriela Adler Katz

Chief Scientist @BreezoMeter. I hold an MSc & PhD in atmospheric science and formerly worked as a research scientist at NOAA. I believe it is my greatest duty as a scientist to bring science to the people!