Grass pollen: Air pollutants for allergy sufferers

An allergy to grasses exists when the immune system reacts hypersensitively to pollen.

What is a grass allergy?

Like allergies to house dust mites, animal hair or food, it belongs to type I, i.e. it is mediated by IgE antibodies. Pollen is a fine pollen formed in seed plants. The body repels the foreign substances and different symptoms occur. As soon as these are spread by air and wind, the burden for allergy sufferers begins. The actually harmless substances then enter the respiratory tract and cause various complaints. The most common is hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis or seasonal rhinitis. Further inflammations of the respiratory tract up to allergic asthma or an allergic shock reaction can also occur due to pollen.

Hay fever is a so-called atopic disease that is widespread. Atopic is the readiness of the immune system to produce more IgE antibodies due to an allergy or predisposition. These are the protein molecules responsible for allergic reactions.

Common types of grasses in Europe

The currently flowering ragweed, also known as “real ragweed” or “ragweed”, is one of the strongest allergy triggers due to its aggressive pollen. However, there are a number of other particularly frequent grass pollen.

How does a grass allergy develop?

The sensitisation occurs at the first contact with the allergy trigger, i.e. the pollen. This initial contact is comparable to getting to know the substance and the immune system and is still free of symptoms. The symptoms do not occur until repeated contact, when the immune system already knows the foreign protein and begins to react to its components. This can also be hereditary.

Frequently allergic reactions already appear in childhood, but allergies can also occur for the first time in adulthood. When having an allergy, the body develops its own reaction pattern, which is why harmless substances lead to problems. The body’s own substances such as histamine are released and cause discomfort.

The higher the pollen concentration in the air, the greater the discomfort. The season and thus the pollen flight time as well as the weather are the decisive factors for the intensity of the load. As a rule, exposure occurs between the months of May and September. If there is an allergy to several types of grasses, the exposure can increase due to different or overlapping flowering periods.

How is grass allergy diagnosed and treated?

With the help of a blood test it can be determined exactly whether and to which grasses the body reacts. If a pollen allergy has been detected, it is highly advisable to consult an allergist immediately. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, immediate medication can help to get the symptoms under control.

However, this is not a cure. With the help of a detailed anamnesis and your test results, your treating physician can plan a targeted therapy and prescribe an appropriate treatment. In order to avoid allergens, it is also recommended to check the amount of pollen in your region again and again in order to avoid unnecessary and avoidable stress.

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Medically tested
This article was checked for medical correctness by Prof. Dr. Karl-Christian Bergmann (Chairman of the German Pollen Information Service Foundation).
Prof. Dr. Karl-Christian Bergmann is chairman of the medical igevia advisory board.

Posted by Nicole Dopler on 5/13/2019

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