Millions of peoplesufferfrom sneezing, coughing,itching, runny noses, and watering eyes when the pollen starts to fly. Each spring, summer, and falltinyparticles arereleasedfrom trees, weeds, and grasses. These particles, known as pollen, hitch rides oncurrentsof air. Although their mission is tofertilizeparts of other plants, many never reach theirtargets. Instead, they make unscheduleddetoursinto human noses andthroats.
Some people with pollen allergy develop asthma, a seriousrespiratorycondition. While asthma mayrecureach year during pollen season, it caneventuallybecome chronic. The symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath due to a narrowing of the bronchial passages, and excess mucus production.
There are three generalapproachesto the treatment of pollen allergy; avoidance of the allergen, medication to relieve symptoms, and immunotherapy orinjectiontreatments (commonly called allergyshots). Although nocurefor pollen allergy has yet been found, one of these strategies or a combination of them can provide various degrees ofrelieffrom allergy symptoms.
Because allergies result from adisorderof the immune system, scientists studying allergic diseases are benefiting from exciting new developments inimmunology. The revolution taking place in molecular biology has led to significant advances in understanding how the immune system works, with applications to nearly every medical field. These advances offer the promise of betterdiagnosisand treatment of pollen allergy - and the hope that one day allergies will bepreventableas well.
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