Mya Stewart RN, BScN, BACYCAllergies

But with the beauty of this new season comes Pollen!

Pollen may trigger uncomfortable symptoms, but did you know there is much that can be done to help you enjoy the outdoors allergy-free this season?

What are Allergies?

An allergy is a heightened sensitivity to a foreign substance (referred to as an “allergen” such as pollen), which causes the body’s immune system to overreact when defending itself.

These immune system changes fall into two categories:

  • Immunoglobulin E (IgE) mediated – the symptoms are the result of interaction between the allergen and a type of antibody known as IgE, which plays a major role in allergic reactions
  • Non-IgE-mediated—the symptoms are the result of interaction of the allergen with the immune system, but the interaction does not involve an IgE antibody

What is Pollen Allergy?

Pollen allergy or “seasonal allergic rhinitis”, occurs when your immune system reacts when exposed to pollens in the air. Symptoms of this response may include:

  • Itchy or swollen eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy ears
  • Sinus congestion
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Itchy and sore throat
  • Wheezing

How can Pollen Allergy be Diagnosed?

After a consultation with an allergy physician, a specialty-trained nurse may performIntradermal Allergy Testing to determine whether you have antibodies that react to a specific pollen.

These protein antibodies, produced by the immune system, attach to mast cells in your skin and mucous membranes. When the allergen binds to its antibody, the mast cells release histamine and other chemicals that cause allergy symptoms.

What is Intradermal Allergy Testing?

Your nurse will use tiny needles to place miniscule amounts of liquid pollen extract just below the surface of the skin on your arm. If you are allergic, there will be swelling or redness at the test site within minutes. Occasionally there could be systemic reactions such as runny nose, sneezing or others.

Each reaction site on your arm is measured to determine whether your reaction is mild, moderate or severe. This type of testing is highly specific and allows you to accurately determine which pollens are causing your symptoms.

What About Blood Testing for Pollen Allergy?

If indicated, your allergy physician may order blood testing to measure your body’s level of pollen-specific antibodies.

How is Pollen Allergy Treated?

Depending on the results of testing, your pollen allergies may be managed with pharmaceutical medications, treated with subcutaneous or sublingual immunotherapy or (Chinese and other) herbs.

Pharmaceutical Medications:

Antihistamines, nasal sprays and decongestants may help temporarily manage your symptoms, particularly during acute pollen exposure.

Subcutaneous and Sublingual Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy consists of solutions either administered under the skin by a physician or self-administered under the tongue.

Immunotherapy contains increasing concentrations of the pollen allergens to which you are sensitive. These cause your body to make a protective antibody called IgG and other protective substances.

In addition to the above treatments, our Doctors of Chinese Medicine may prescribe herbal formulas as another option to lessen your symptoms and help you return to a healthy state.

To learn more about Connect Health’s Allergy Program or to book an appointment with one of our allergy practitioners, please contact Client Services at 604.733.4400 or

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