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How Long Does Pollen Season Last

by Dan Hughes
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How Long Does Pollen Season Last

How Long Does Pollen Season Last

You may have noticed that there seems to be more trees than usual this spring — or maybe you’re just noticing your allergies are acting up. That could mean one thing: It’s about time for pollination season, which can run from mid-March to late summer.
Pollen season lasts longer these days because of global warming, but whether you’ve been sneezing all winter or not, here’s a basic overview of what happens during different parts of the year.
In early spring (mid-to-late March), the most common type of pollen comes from flowering plants like magnolias and maples. These trees produce millions of tiny flowers with no petals, called anthers. The male reproductive cells inside each anther look like grains of rice; they contain lots of sperm. When springtime temperatures get warm enough, bees go after those anthers and collect pollen on their hind legs. This pollen gets transferred onto their front feet and taken back to their hive where it will fertilize female egg cells. In some species, such as apple trees, the females ripen first and then release their own seeds. But most other trees need insects to do the job.
The next major period of pollen production starts around May 1 and ends by mid-June, depending on the region. During this time, many types of flowering plants start producing seedpods containing the tiny fruits we call “seeds.” If you see windblown pollen particles on your car windshield at this point, it means these plants are releasing their seeds. Some of them, like ragweed and dandelions, produce large amounts of pollen. Others, like oaks and elms, don’t put out much pollen at all.
By midsummer, most flowering plants have stopped putting out new seeds and are instead growing larger leaves and buds. That makes it easier for airborne allergens to stick to their surfaces. Around August, the number of pollinator visits slows down as fall approaches. At the same time, weed growth peaks due to increased sunlight, so people who suffer from hay fever often notice higher levels of pollens in this month. Finally, in November and December, the last flower stalks drop their pollen-producing structures and turn brown.
So how does this affect allergy sufferers? Read on to find out.
Allergies Caused By Tree Pollen
If you’re allergic to certain kinds of plants, chances are good that the culprit behind your nasal problems is pollen. Allergic reactions occur when substances irritate our mucus membranes, causing inflammation and swelling. Our bodies respond to this irritation by creating antibodies against the substance that caused it. If exposed to the offending agent again, these antibodies cause us to react strongly with symptoms similar to asthma attacks, including wheezing, coughing, and trouble breathing.
Tree pollens can make things worse for people who already experience allergies. As we mentioned earlier, tree pollen tends to hang around until mid-summer or later. Once it’s outdoors, it has a lot less competition for sticking to your nose hairs. And unlike other pollens, tree pollen doesn’t die away once its mission is complete. Instead, it clings to your hair and clothing fibers for weeks at a time.
Your body responds to this constant exposure by making even more antibodies. Over time, these extra antibodies bind to tissue in your nose, throat, and eyes causing extra swelling and itching. They also activate white blood cells that attack foreign invaders, leading to chronic sinus infections.
What causes tree pollen allergies? Many factors contribute to this problem, but the main reason is simply that trees are constantly shedding pollen. Even though only a small amount reaches your eyes and mouth, it can trigger allergies in sensitive people. Other contributing factors include genetics, weather conditions, and changes in farming methods. People who live near forests or farms are especially prone to tree pollen allergies.
To avoid getting sick, wear sunglasses and use a mask while outside. You should also wash your clothes and sheets regularly, since pollen sticks to them long after it falls from the air. To reduce the effects of tree pollen, take a daily probiotic supplement that contains Lactobacillus acidophilus. Probiotics help colonize the digestive tract, where tree pollen settles when ingested, killing any potentially harmful bacteria along the way. Lastly, try wearing pollen-safe gloves and socks whenever possible.

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