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pollen in the air
pollen in the air

Clearing the Air

Surviving Pollen Season

Tips for Coping with Allergies

What is Pollen, and Where Does it Come From?

Pollen is a yellow, powdery substance in flowers and trees, fertilizing plants. When pollen is released, it can be carried by the wind or insects to other flowers, where it can fertilize the plant. Pollen is an essential part of plant life.

Mother Nature and the Fertilization of Plants

The female reproductive part of a plant is called the pistil. This crucial part of the plant has three distinct parts; the ovary, stigma, and style. The ovary is the part of the plant that contains the ovules or the unfertilized eggs. The stigma is the sticky part of the pistil that acts as an entry point for pollen, and the style is the tube that connects the stigma to the ovary. The pistil plays a crucial role in successful reproduction, as pollination leads to fertilization, eventually growing the plant. The fertilization process ensures genetic diversity within a species and that plants continue to evolve to adapt to their environment.

Male Pollen is Responsible

Male pollen is produced by the stamen, the male reproductive structure found in flowering plants. This pollen contains the male gametes, or sperm cells, that are needed to fertilize a plant's ovules and produce new seeds. After the pollen is made, it is often picked up by pollinators like bees and carried to other plants, which can lead to fertilization. However, some of this pollen can also escape into the atmosphere and float around until it lands on another plant.While male pollen can theoretically lead to fertilization without the help of pollinators, it's important to remember that this process is far less reliable than when pollinators are involved. (Pollinators are bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds, and beetles: Bees are the most well-known pollinators. They are responsible for pollinating over 70% of the world's crops!). The pollen must land on a receptive stigma, the female reproductive structure to successfully fertilize a plant. If the pollen floats away or lands on a non-receptive stigma, fertilization won't occur. Furthermore, the chances of male pollen landing on a nearby plant that's compatible with it are pretty slim.

Female Pollen has a Role too

So, what about female pollen? Some people believe that female plants produce a more potent version of pollen that causes stronger allergic reactions. However, this is only partially true. Both male and female plants produce pollen, but the pollen from male plants is typically lighter and more easily carried by the wind, while female plants tend to have heavier pollen that is not as likely to become airborne. This might be why we aren't allergic to bachelor buttons, zinnias, or tulips!

So, This is Why We Have Allergic Reactions to Trees and Grasses!

In some situations, male pollen could still play a role in fertilization. For example, male pollen is often the primary means of fertilization in wind-pollinated plants like grasses or specific trees. These plants don't rely on pollinators, instead relying on the wind to carry their pollen from one plant to another. While still not a foolproof method, this evolutionary adaptation has allowed these plants to reproduce without the help of insects and birds. So, that's why our allergy symptoms are worse when it's windy!

What causes a pollen season allergy to worsen?

It's also worth noting that the amount of pollen grains a plant produces can vary yearly depending on weather conditions. For example, a dry spring followed by a sudden rainstorm can cause more pollen to be released into the air, resulting in more severe allergy symptoms.

Why Pollen Causes Allergic Reactions 

The answer lies in our immune system. When we breathe in pollen, our immune system sees it as a threat and releases chemicals like histamine to fight it. But unfortunately, these chemicals can also cause inflammation in the nose, eyes, and throat, leading to a runny nose and other allergy symptoms.

 

How to Reduce Your Allergic Symptoms Indoors

So, what can you do to avoid pollen during allergy season? Some tips include reducing your exposure to allergens by staying indoors on high pollen days, keeping windows and doors closed, using air conditioning, and washing your clothing and hair regularly to remove any pollen that may have accumulated. But did you know pollen floats indoors whenever you open a door or window, and your pets brush against weeds and grasses outdoors, so besides the common knowledge of keeping your doors closed, it's wise to look at keeping allergens at bay inside your home.

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