What is weed pollen allergy?
Many types of pollen can cause allergies, making you sneeze and have a runny nose. Tree pollen and grass pollen are the most common triggers. But there's another kind of pollen – weed pollen – that can also cause allergic reactions.
Some people might mistake weed pollen allergy for grass pollen allergy because the pollen seasons can overlap, and both can cause bothersome nasal congestion and other allergy symptoms. This is when allergy testing can come into its own.
Millions of people around the world experience allergic reactions to weed pollen. If you're one of them, you might be wondering what you can do to make your life with weed pollen allergy a little easier. This article will help you learn more about weed pollen allergy, from the allergy symptoms to look out for to potential treatment options.
Different types of weed pollen allergy
Let's start by defining what a weed is. A weed is simply a plant that grows where it's not wanted. Weeds can be found almost anywhere - in gardens, lawns, fields, meadows, roadsides, and even in forests.
While there are many types of weeds the most common types that people are allergic to include: plantain, mugwort, dock weed and nettle. Another plant causing weed allergy is ragweed. Ragweed is highly allergenic and widespread in North America. It's not present in the UK yet, but it's spreading in Europe.
Weed allergy is an allergic reaction to weed pollen. Weed pollen is the male fertilizing agent of weeds. Weed pollen is also a major allergen that can cause symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever.
What causes weed pollen allergy?
Allergic reactions occur when your immune system mistakes a harmless substance, like weed pollen, for a dangerous invader. Your immune system makes antibodies known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE) in response to the weed pollen. These antibodies remain in your blood, ready to defend your body in case you come into contact with weed pollen again.
If you've developed an allergy, next time your immune system identifies weed pollen, it sets off a chain of reactions resulting in an allergic response. The allergic response is the weed allergy symptoms you're likely familiar with.
Weed pollen allergy symptoms
Weed pollen allergy symptoms can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:
- Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
- Runny nose
- Itchy nose
- Post-nasal drip (the feeling of mucus moving down the back of your throat)
Weed pollen allergy symptoms can be similar to symptoms of a cold. But there are some differences between weed pollen allergy symptoms and cold symptoms to be aware of. For example, clear mucus is likely to be associated with hay fever. Yellow mucus, a raised temperature and aching muscles are typically cold symptoms.
A less common symptom of weed pollen allergy may occur when your skin comes into contact with certain weeds. Some weeds can cause an allergic reaction that leads to a contact dermatitis-type of rash.
Tips to help manage weed pollen allergy symptoms
Avoiding exposure to weed pollen is the best way to manage your allergy symptoms but that's not always possible. If you experience weed pollen allergy, we've got some tips that may help you lessen or prevent symptoms.
- Keep track of pollen levels. Pollen levels are often highest during the morning and early evening but to find out for sure, a pollen tracker such as the klarify app can help you monitor your local weed pollen levels every day. This can help you plan your activities. You can also check your local pollen forecast on our website.
- Try to keep your windows closed when the weed pollen levels are high. If you have air conditioning, it may make days when the weed pollen levels are high more comfortable.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat when going outdoors during the weed pollen season. This can help to reduce weed pollen getting in your eyes and hair.
- If you experience an allergic rash from coming into contact with some weeds, try to avoid walking through weed-filled areas if you can. If you can't avoid them, then try to cover your skin as much as possible by wearing socks and long trousers.
- Get to know where the troublesome weeds are in your local area and avoid those places if you can. Bear in mind though that a lot of weeds are pollinated by the wind, which can carry the weed pollen grains far and wide.
- Clean your house regularly to get rid of any weed pollen that may have accumulated. A damp cloth may help get rid of weed pollen grains. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter on your soft furnishings and curtains as well as carpets and rugs.
- Wash outdoor clothes and your bed linen regularly. In periods of high weed pollen levels, it's advisable to dry your laundry indoors if you have the space to do so.
Oral allergy syndrome and weed pollen allergy
Weed pollen might be responsible if your mouth or throat itches when you eat certain raw fruit or vegetables, seeds, or nuts. This is called oral allergy syndrome or pollen food syndrome, which can happen when your immune system confuses the proteins in the food for the proteins in the specific weed pollen. It's also known as cross-reactivity. For example, when you're allergic to mugwort you can have a local reaction in your mouth, face and throat when eating bell pepper, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, garlic, onion, parsley, aniseed, caraway, coriander, fennel and black pepper.
Oral allergy syndrome versus food allergies
Oral allergy syndrome can be confused with food allergies as some of the symptoms may be similar.
Oral allergy syndrome can cause symptoms such as an itchy or tingling mouth, face, tongue or throat. It rarely triggers severe allergic reactions, but it's important to know if you have it or a food allergy so you can manage it correctly.
If you don’t know if you are having oral allergy syndrome symptoms or a more severe allergic reaction to any foods, talk to your GP. If you have any symptoms while eating nuts, it's important to see a GP. Nuts are more likely to cause serious allergic reactions that need immediate medical attention.
Treatment options for weed pollen allergy
There’s no cure for weed pollen allergy, but you may be able to relieve your symptoms with different medications such as antihistamines or corticosteroids. Some people find relief from their allergies by taking over-the-counter medications like antihistamines. Others may need prescription medications, such as corticosteroids to control their symptoms.