Is it Pollen? or do I have a cold?

Girl in field of flowers

Is it Pollen or do I have a cold?

When I was young, perhaps 7 or 8, I developed what we thought was a nasty summer cold.  My mother took me to the family doctor to get it checked out because it wasn’t following the usual pattern. The doctor conducted a brief exam and told us that it wasn’t a cold but I was allergic to the pollen of a certain species of water lily.   Mom wanted to know how he knew exactly what I was allergic to. He told her that it was the only plant in the area that bloomed at that time of the year but not to worry as the bloom only lasted 10 days and I would be back to normal in a week. He was spot on with his prediction. I had developed my first and only seasonal allergy.

The Pollen Cycle

This is a fairly typical story most people immediately understand.  Seasonal allergies are very common and are caused by pollen from blooming plants.  Tree pollen causes most of the early spring allergies. Ornamental flowers come next and continue for some time.  Grass pollen causes hay fever in mid-summer.  To close out the pollen season there are the ragweed allergies. Indoor flowering plants also produce pollen and can cause allergy symptoms as well.

An allergy is manifested by the body’s immune system mounting a defensive reaction to the presence of a specific substance which we call an allergen. Pollen, mold spores, and dust are common allergens.  Most allergies are no more than a passing or periodic annoyance.  However, there are some allergies that can produce serious reactions. Some of these are so extreme that they are fatal.  Even minor allergies can cause serious complications for persons with certain conditions, notably asthma.


Those who suffer from seasonal allergies often seek symptomatic relief by taking antihistamines if they cannot avoid exposure.  Unfortunately avoiding exposure is difficult if a person spends any time outdoors. However, if you spend time indoors. There are strategies that can mitigate seasonal allergy symptoms.

We have a great deal of control over indoor air quality.  Basic housekeeping (cleaning mopable surfaces and vacuuming carpeted ones) go a long way to improve indoor air quality.  In homes and offices where there is central HVAC a furnace filter like the LAD1814 can be installed to capture these particles and remove them from circulation. In buildings without central HVAC or leased residences it may be more appropriate to install a table top or wall mounted air purifier such as the LakeAir Maxum.