Allernet > All About Allergy

BurkardEach year, millions of Americans suffer from hay fever and sinus symptoms caused by outdoor pollen and molds spores. About 23%-30% of the US population has the genetic ability to make allergic immune reactions to airborne POLLEN or MOLD allergens. Normal people, who do not have this genetic predisposition, will not experience any allergy symptoms when inhaling airborne pollen and mold materials.

Before learning about pollen and mold counting, you really need to better understand what allergy is all about.

ALLERGY is the opposite of AIDS. Allergy symptoms are the result of too much immunity. Your immune system produces antibodies to fight infections. If you have AIDS, you have too little immunity to defend yourself against getting sick. AIDS is too little immunity, and allergy is too much. Too much production of antibody E, the (A, B, C, D, E) fifth antibody historically to be discovered.

The allergy antibody (IgE) made by your immune system is produced in response to your exposure to substances we refer to as ALLERGENS. Allergens are usually environmentally stable foreign substances like pollen proteins that may induce unfortunate allergy immune reactions in predisposed individuals.

Allergy antibodies act like fuses on the outside of allergy bombs. The allergy bombs (cells known as mast cells or basophils), contain histamine and other chemicals capable of causing your allergy symptoms. When histamine is released into your nose, you will sneeze and have a runny nose. Histamine in the lungs will cause spasm of the airways or wheezing. If histamine is released from exploding allergy cells into the skin, you may experience itching. If histamine and other allergy cell chemicals are released all over the body, then a severe life-threatening reaction may take place.

Allergy has different names. When allergy explosions occur in the nose and sinuses, we call if HAY FEVER, or medically speaking, allergic rhinitis. When allergy happens in the lungs, we call it ASTHMA. If allergic reactions occur in the skin, we give it the name of HIVES or ANGIOEDEMA. In the gut, we allergists call it FOOD ALLERGY. If an allergic reaction occurs all over the body, such as with a severe life-threatening bee sting reaction, it is called ANAPHYLAXIS. So, allergy really has different names depending upon what part of your body is being affected by the allergy cells and their contents.

So, now you know the three most valuable and basic facts about allergy:

(1) ALLERGY IS TOO MUCH IMMUNITY,

(2) ALLERGY ANTIBODIES ACT LIKE FUSES ON THE OUTSIDE OF ALLERGY BOMBS,

(3) ALLERGY HAS DIFFERENT NAMES DEPENDING UPON WHERE IN YOUR BODY IT OCCURS.

Many people are unaware of the fact that the allergy season really never ends. Allergy specialists look at the calendar year in terms of either the indoor or the outdoor allergy seasons. The indoor allergy season occurs all-year-round. The indoor allergens which are most likely to cause allergy symptoms during this season are the house dust mites and indoor pets such as cats, dogs and 'pet' cockroaches. The outdoor allergy season occurs when plant life attempts to reproduce itself by releasing billions and billions of male 'plant sperm' in the form of pollen.

All pollens are not created equal, however, and some pack more of an allergy punch than others. The most potent allergenic pollens come from the grass family, ragweeds, and the birch and oak trees.

Few people realize that it is not actually the pollen that people are allergic to, but rather the allergenic proteins present within the pollens themselves. There are proteins inside of the pollen grains which get released into the atmosphere when the pollen gets wet. These allergenic plant proteins may also be present in other plants that we humans eat. So, if you are allergic to a plant protein inside of the ragweed pollen, and that protein is also present in plant foods such as banana, watermelon and cantaloupe, then you may experience allergy symptoms when eating these foods. These symptoms might include itching of the roof of the mouth, swollen lips, wheezing and even a closing of the throat. Avoidance of these foods can be very important to those affected.

Pollen and mold biology is extremely important to the allergy sufferer, since for many patients, pollen and mold spores are responsible for their symptoms. Allergy specialists and others in the field of palynology (the study of pollen and other aerobiological materials) have for years been gathering and sharing data about what is in the air. The practicing allergist uses pollen and mold count information in several ways. First, it is important to know what pollen producing plants are in an area in order to determine which pollens may be responsible for breathing difficulties. If an allergist does not know what to test you for, you can not get an accurate diagnosis of your allergy problems.

Also, pollen and mold spore levels actually correlate with patients' symptoms. As the pollen levels increase so does the 'Kleenex count' of the allergy patient.

Pollen forecasting is today in its infancy, but some allergy specialists are now studying how best to predict short term pollen and mold exposures in regional environments. NPN currently provides CNN with daily allergy forecasts which help the public better understand why they may be experiencing symptoms of allergy.

INTERPRETING POLLEN AND MOLD COUNT INFORMATION

Pollen and mold count data are usually reported as Low, Moderate, High or Very High and are average counts of specific pollens or molds per cubic liter of air sampled over the previous 24 hours. This means that you are looking at what the average load of atmospheric pollen or mold was for the previous day. Since it is an average, your actual exposures may even have been more intense due to the fact that some pollen sources, like grasses, pollinate only from 6-10 in the morning.

Pollen and mold counts are described as being low, moderate, high or very high. These terms refer to the risk of experiencing allergy symptoms. Think of it in the same way you do for cholesterol levels. If you have a high reading for cholesterol, it does not mean that you will need heart by-pass surgery this evening. It means that your RISK is high for the development of coronary heart disease. Similarly, if you have allergy tendencies and if the pollen level is in the high range, you are more likely to have allergy symptoms such as hay fever, asthma or sinus headaches.

Pollen and mold count information is all about risks of experiencing allergy symptoms. If you have specific questions about pollen and mold counts, telephone your local allergy specialist's office which has provided the information to your local news media, or if you wish, you may send your questions to us at questions@allernet.com. We will try to answer your questions as soon as possible, or refer you to an allergy specialist in your area.