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Pollen and Children

What is pollen?

Pollen is the male reproductive cells of flowering plants, trees, grasses, and weeds. Pollen is microscopic in size and is the most common cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis, sometimes known as hay fever.

Which plants produce pollen that cause allergic reactions?

Plants that spread their pollen by the wind are the most common cause of allergic rhinitis and include:

  • Trees, such as oak, western red cedar, elm, birch, ash, hickory, poplar, sycamore, maple, cypress, walnut, catalpa, olive, and pecan

  • Grasses, such as timothy, Johnson, Bermuda, orchard, sweet vernal, red top, and some blue grasses

  • Weeds, such as ragweed, sagebrush, pigweed, tumbleweed, Russian thistle, and cockleweed

The pollen of most flowering plants, such as roses, is heavier, waxy, and spread by insects. These plants generally do not trigger allergies.

When is pollen season?

Each type of plant has a pollen season. Some things bloom in the spring, others bloom in the fall.  Pollen season usually starts in the spring, but may begin as early as January in the western areas of the U.S. The season usually lasts until November.

Can allergic rhinitis in pollen season be prevented?

To lessen the effects of allergic rhinitis during pollen season, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology suggests the following:

  • Keep windows closed during pollen season and use air conditioning with a HEPA filter, which cleans, cools, and dries the air.

  • Minimize outdoor activities early in the morning, between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen is most prevalent.

  • Keep car windows closed when traveling.

  • Take vacations in areas where pollen is not as prevalent, such as the ocean.

  • Give your child his or her medicines, as prescribed by his or her healthcare provider.

  • Minimize your child's time spent outdoors when the pollen count is high.

  • Bathe and shampoo your child's hair after playing outside. Wash clothes worn outside.

  • Do not rake leaves or have your child jump in piles of raked leaves during pollen season.

  • Do not hang your child's bedding or clothing outside to dry.