Spring Pollens

By William J. Rea, MD, FAAEM

Environmental Health Center-Dallas

Pollen seasons vary throughout the United States. In the Southwest, there are three major pollen seasons. One occurs during late August, September, and early October. Another occurs in the winter, from mid-November until the end of February. The most intense occurs in the spring and typically lasts for three months, from March until June. During this period in Texas, cottonwood, pecan, and elm trees pollinate first. Then, early in March, oak and hackberry begin to emerge. These are followed by mulberry and sycamore, which pollinate from mid-March through April. Walnut pollinates from the end of March through April. Pecan can pollinate in April, as well. Usually, grass pollen starts in mid to late March, goes through April, peaks in May, and continues until November. However, due to the unusual weather conditions of 1997-1998, this yearís springtime pollen season promises to vary from this pattern, becoming a particularly intense and extended period. Evidence of this change is already apparent in the emergence of some grass pollens as much as a month or two ahead of schedule. In light of these changes, it is perhaps prudent to consider the effect exposure to increased levels of pollens over an extended time period may have on those of us who suffer allergic reactions to them.

While most of us, whether or not we are plagued by allergies ourselves, are aware that pollens can cause a runny nose, sinusitis, or asthma, what many of us do not realize is that the frequent, though not well understood effects of pollen exposure, also include brain dysfunction with short-term memory loss, inability to concentrate, dizziness and imbalance, fatigue, loss of energy, fascia, and muscle and joint aches. Some people react to pollen exposure with gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, or blood vessel dysfunction. Still others develop heart irregularities.

The unique finding about grass is that grasses can cross-react with many grains, especially wheat. We have seen many patients at the EHC-Dallas who have had to stop eating wheat and other grasses like rye, oats, barley, rice, etc. during this season in order to control their pollen allergy.

Treatment for pollen allergy varies, but, of course, avoidance is best. If you have good air filters and keep the doors and windows of your home and office closed, you should do well. If you must work outside, a silk, cotton, or paper mask may reduce contact with pollen. Also, increasing your nutrients, such as vitamin C, may help you reduce your reactions to pollen exposure. Some individuals will take up to 7 gms per day to stop their reactions to pollen. This volume is harmless to the individual as long as the gastrointestinal tract is not disturbed. Other nutrients that may help you manage your reactions to pollen are glutathione, 600 mgm/day, and Taurine, 2 gm/day. One or two multimineral capsules may also help. Of course, you can take antihistamines, but they cause so many side effects that many people prefer not to take them. Finally, homeopathic drops may help control spring pollens.

Other than avoidance, the best treatment for pollen exposure is a technique called serial dilution titration in which the physician does simple injections of a graded amount of pollen on the patientís arm to find the proper treatment dose. Once this dose is determined, patients can administer their own injections for relief. This technique has been extremely effective for our patients at the EHC-Dallas. If you are interested in this kind of treatment, you will have to ask your physician if he or she uses it. If your physician does not, youíll have to continue looking for a physician who does.

If you are unable to locate a physician who uses serial dilution titration in your area, contact the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy, or the PAN American Allergy Society and ask them to help you find one.

If you try these techniques and find them unsuccessful in combating your allergic reactions to pollen, you should consider the possibility that spring insecticides, fertilizers, or food sensitivities may be interfering with your treatment and preventing you from becoming well.