The severity of the allergic reaction to pollen varies from person to person according to:

  • the immune system of the sensitized person which reacts in different degrees to the allergen
  • the type of pollen to which the person is allergic
  • the intensity of the pollen season.

3 strategies for effective treatment

Following diagnosis, the doctor may prescribe a treatment for the symptoms, or desensitization, or both together.

In all cases the allergen which is responsible for the allergy must be avoided as much as possible.

Avoiding the allergen

  • avoid efforts and activities in the open air
  • aerate the house only briefly when the pollen concentration is highest
  • aerate for longer periods on rainy days when the concentration of pollen is lower
  • keep car windows closed when travelling
  • wear glasses to prevent the allergens getting into the eyes
  • avoid drying clothes outside so that pollen does not get caught in the material being then brought into the house
  • use disposable tissues
  • wash your hair before going to bed to remove pollen and to avoid sleeping in contact with the allergen
  • do not mow lawns or stay near when lawns are being mowed
  • if possible go to the seaside where less tree pollen is present in the air.

Treatment of symptoms

Medication such as antihistamines or corticosteroids reduce the symptoms related to pollen allergies. The doctor may decide to prescribe them preventatively.

  • Antihistamines

Antihistamines are the first-line treatment of allergic rhinitis. They block the action of histamine, a substance produced by the immune system which causes the allergic reaction.

Antihistamines therefore work effectively against a runny nose, watery eyes and itching.

  • Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are often used in the form of a nasal spray to reinforce, or as an alternative to, antihistamines.

They are particularly effective against a stuffy nose.

If the pollen allergy is accompanied by asthma, the doctor may also associate the spray with a medication which opens up the bronchial tubes (bronchodilator).

DID YOU KNOW? Be careful with vasoconstrictors! Sprays against stuffy nose, freely available in the pharmacy, contain vasoconstrictors, molecules which tighten blood vessels. They can be a cardiovascular risk and paradoxically worsen nasal congestion (stuffy nose). Used to excess and over a long period, they make the nasal mucosa thinner and cause atrophic rhinitis, a permanently running nose. In the case of a cold, physiological saline is to be preferred.


Desensitization consists of injecting increasing doses of the allergen to make the patient progressively more tolerant to it.

The treatment is spread over a period of 3 to 5 years and must be carried out by a doctor.

The protective effect of desensitization normally last for several years after the end of the treatment.

The Belgian aerobiological surveillance network “Airallergy” quickly informs general practitioners, specialists, pharmaceutical firms and the general population of the presence of allergens in the air.

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