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Pollen and Lung Disease: A Potentially Serious Combination

Seasonal allergies are annoying to even the healthiest person, but if you have lung disease, exposure to pollen can be more serious.

Pollen is a fine, powdery substance discharged into the air from male plant parts with the intent of pollinating female plants. Because it is a foreign substance, pollen can irritate the sensitive tissues of the respiratory tract when inhaled. Normally, the immune system protects the body from irritation from pollen by producing histamines, naturally occurring substances that cause swelling and inflammation in tissue. The inflamed tissue prevents the pollen from entering the body.

In people with allergies, however, the body overreacts to the presence of pollen by overproducing histamines, which causes inflammation to turn to congestion in the sinuses. Overproduction of histamines can also open up ducts in your eyes and nose in an attempt to keep pollen out.

The effects of histamines cause symptoms of an allergic reaction to pollen, which include:

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Sinus congestion
  • Tension headache
  • Sneezing, coughing
  • Swollen airways

COPD and Lung Disease: A Combination that Takes Your Breath Away

These symptoms can be an annoyance to those with pollen allergies. To people with lung disease, however, symptoms of pollen allergies can make it very hard to breathe. In fact, according to a study by Johns Hopkins Allergy and Asthma Center, COPD patients with seasonal allergies suffered from worsened respiratory symptoms than those without the disease. They were also more likely to need medical treatment for their symptoms.

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), interstitial lung disease (ILD), and other lung diseases already have trouble breathing, and their lungs cannot properly use what little air they take in. A runny nose or coughing can make it even more difficult to breathe in and use air. Left untreated, poor respiration can result in low oxygen levels in the blood.

The bodies of otherwise healthy individuals overcome the effects of pollen allergies quickly. When the immune system senses the presence of foreign invaders – pollens, in this case – it sends out stem cells that heal the body. The army of stem cells responds quickly in healthy individuals, but more slowly in people with lung disease. This means exposure to pollen can leave people with lung disease struggling to breathe for a longer time.

For more information about pollen and lung disease, consult with your healthcare professional. An accurate diagnosis and prompt care can improve your comfort, optimize your treatment outcomes, and leave you breathing freely.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at 770.730.0119 today to make an appointment with Virtual Imaging.