Why should I test for pollen allergy?
Every year during the pollen season, an increasing number of people suffer from sneezing, sniffling and reddened eyes. A pollen allergy is not only annoying, but it can be extremely debilitating and negatively impact your well-being for weeks. In addition, it is often difficult to avoid pollen.p>
So, do you simply have to endure the pollen season and bear the discomfort? No! Experts even advise against it. Because if you are constantly exposed to your allergies, this can intensify your allergies in the long run and even increase the risk of asthma.
It is therefore advisable to take specific measures in order to be exposed to as little pollen as possible that may cause allergy symptoms.
To find out which grass, herb or flower pollen are causing your symptoms, a blood test for IgE antibodies is a sensible first step. This helps you protect yourself from the triggers of a possible allergy.
Who should take the test?
A pollen allergy test may be useful for all individuals who display typical spring or summer allergy symptoms such as sneezing, a stuffy nose and itchy eyes.
An increasing number of people are affected by this. In total, between ten and thirty per cent of adults in the United Kingdom suffer from pollen allergies during their lifetime. In some cases, a pollen allergy also only develops over the course of a lifetime, often in adulthood.
How does the test work?
To perform the Pollen Allergy Test, obtain a small blood sample from your fingertip using a lancet. Only a few drops of blood are required. You will then place the drops on a dry blood spot card – this way, you only obtain a very small amount of blood and the sample lasts longer.
The sample is then sent to a medical laboratory free of charge by return envelope. The laboratory analyses the number of IgE antibodies to certain grass, herb and flower pollen. After the analysis, you will receive a notification and will be able to access the results report via the online customer area or the My cerascreen® app.
What will the results tell me?
The results report
A table indicates how sensitive you are to 16 different allergens – that is, whether there are too many of the IgE antibodies in the blood that react to the respective pollen. This sensitivity represents the likelihood of your immune system having an allergic reaction to pollen. It is an indication of a possible allergy.
An increased number of antibodies is the first indication of a possible pollen allergy. For a final diagnosis, speak to a doctor with experience in allergy diagnostics.
What type of recommendations will I receive?
Increased IgE levels are a sign of an allergy, but are not a diagnosis in themselves. It is also possible that elevated IgE levels are not associated with symptoms and are completely unproblematic. You can use the results as a prompt to observe your symptoms more closely in everyday life or to discuss further action with your doctor.
A definite diagnosis of an allergy can only be made by doctors who, in addition to the test results, look at a medical history of your symptoms.
The results report provides information on which types of pollen are in season and how to identify different trees and grasses that may cause allergies. It also tells you how you can reduce your symptoms during the pollen season with everyday measures, household remedies and a healthy gut.
Which pollen is tested for?
The cerascreen® Pollen Allergy Test measures the concentration of IgE antibodies for different types of pollen and also the allergen of the Ficus benjamina, which can often lead to pollen-allergy-like symptoms.
Grassses and herbs: Bahia grass, mugwort, pellitory, grass mix, Bermuda grass, rye, timothy grass
Plants: Ragweed, olive, poplar, ribwort, cypress and the sap of the Ficus benjamina
Trees: Birch, alder, hazelnut
What are IgE antibodies?
When you have an allergic reaction, your immune system suffers. Immunoglobulins E (IgE), specific antibodies of your immune system, play a central role in this process. ‘Specific’ in this context means that one type of IgE antibody is specialised in defending against certain foreign bodies. p>
If you have an allergy, these specific IgE antibodies appear too frequently in the body. They cause the immune system to malfunction when they encounter harmless proteins from food, animal hair or even pollen. The mast cells, a kind of immune cell, then release the messenger substance histamine. The histamine then causes inflammation, which, in turn, leads to the typical allergy symptoms.
What symptoms can I expect with a pollen allergy?
A pollen allergy is an allergy of the immediate type. The symptoms therefore occur immediately or shortly after encountering the pollen.
Typical symptoms of a pollen allergy are:
- A runny nose, itching in your nose and sneezing
- Itchy and red eyes
- A sore throat, breathing difficulties and even allergic asthma - Skin rashes
- A headache and fatigue
In particular, constant sneezing and concentration difficulties caused by the pollen allergy can also negatively impact your ability to drive and increase the risk of road accidents.
What are the possible consequences of a pollen allergy?
An untreated pollen allergy is not only extremely unpleasant in everyday life. It can also be accompanied by a number of consequences.
If the mucous membranes are constantly irritated because of hay fever, this causes the mucous membranes to react more sensitively to external stimuli and increases the risk of sinusitis.
In addition, the allergy can lead to a so-called ‘level change’. This means that the allergy moves to the lower respiratory tract and causes allergic asthma.
A pollen allergy can also cause cross-sensitivity/cross-allergy, especially with food.
Which cross-allergies exist?
A pollen allergy causes the immune system to initiate defensive reactions against proteins in the pollen. However, these proteins are similar in structure to some proteins in certain foods. It is therefore possible for your body to also have allergic reactions to these similarly structured proteins, and a cross-sensitivity develops.
The most known cross-sensitivity is that of birch pollen and fruit, which is often referred to as birch-fruit syndrome.
We have listed some typical cross-allergies here. People who react to the following pollen have, in some cases, cross-sensitivities to the foods mentioned.
- Birch pollen: Hazelnuts, other nuts and fruit
- Mugwort pollen and other grasses: Celery, mustard, onions, spices, other fruits and vegetables
- Ragweed pollen: Melons, bananas, courgettes, cucumbers
What should I do if I am allergic to pollen?
If you are suffering from a pollen allergy, it is usually much more difficult to avoid the allergens than, for example, if you are allergic to food or animal hair.
But it is worthwhile reducing the amount of pollen you come into contact with. With these tips, you can do this in everyday life:
- Place pollen nets in front of your windows and regularly wear special masks for outside use
- Change clothes when entering your house and do not place them in the bedroom - Wash your hair before going to bed
- Air out the house at the right time – for example, in the morning if you are allergic to grass pollen and in the evening if you are allergic to mugwort
One study showed that black cumin oil was an effective household remedy. Applied externally, it can relieve inflammation of the nasal mucosa.
In addition, studies have shown that there are links between pollen allergy and intestinal health. So, it might be worthwhile strengthening your intestinal flora – for example, by eating a diet rich in fibre or taking prebiotics and probiotics .
Are there medications for pollen allergies?
To temporarily alleviate your symptoms , you can also take medication. The most common are:
Antihistamines: These pills counteract the release of histamine in the body. They thereby reduce inflammation and alleviate allergic asthma.
Nasal sprays and nasal drops: These medications usually contain alpha-sympathomimetics, which reduce swelling of mucous membranes, or cortisone, which has an anti-inflammatory effect.
However, these drugs only treat the symptoms and not the allergy itself. They should not be taken on a long-term basis.
Are there treatments for pollen allergies?
The only known causative therapy for an allergy is specific immunotherapy. In the case of a pollen allergy, this treatment can work in many cases.
You will be given a low dose of the allergen at regular intervals, by injection or by drops or tablets. This therapy usually lasts for three years. If it is successful, your immune system will have been virtually reprogrammed and will no longer classify the allergenic pollen as a danger.
If you are interested in immunotherapy for your pollen allergy, talk to a specialist in allergology.
Can I prevent a pollen allergy?
Whether you will develop an allergy is probably determined in the body in early childhood. Preventing allergies in children is therefore still possible, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The following factors can probably reduce the allergy risk in children:
- A natural birth, if a caesarean section is not medically necessary
- Breastfeeding, preferably for at least the first four months
- Eating a balanced diet during pregnancy and ensuring a sufficient supply of omega-3 fatty acids.
In general, a tendency to develop allergies and similar diseases is inherited. Preventive measures are therefore particularly useful if one or both parents already suffer from allergies, asthma or atopic dermatitis.
Who is the test not suitable for?
The Pollen Allergy Test is not suitable for or is only partially suitable for the following groups of people:
People with infectious diseases, like hepatitis and HIV, must not take the Pollen Allergy Test.
People with haemophilia should not use the blood test.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should only perform the Pollen Allergy Test under medical supervision. The reference values and recommendations do not apply to them, so they should obtain recommendations on the test result from their doctor.
The Pollen Allergy Test is not suitable for children under 18 years.
The test is not intended to diagnose disease. For example, if you suffer from chronic diarrhoea or extreme pain, consult a doctor.