Why Is Everyone Allergic to Pollen?

(Last Updated On: March 13, 2022)

For many, the Sun is starting to come around more–and for many it’s also been compounded with daylight savings ticking over again. If you’ve got allergies, life probably could be a lot more fun right about now. It’s also probably annoying to have to explain to your not-allergy-having friends that you’re not actually sick–your greatest weakness is just plant dust. What’s up with pollen allergies, then? Why is everyone allergic to pollen? 

What Even Is an Allergic Reaction?

An allergic reaction is what happens when your immune system decides it wants to be a little… Overprotective. The immune system itself is really complicated, so much so that you are actually already immune to every disease that has ever existed and will ever exist. You’ve got these fancy cells that produce antibodies, and they basically just keep generating random combinations of them to mount an immune response in case, one day, that random thing enters your body. It’s part of why it can take time to recover from sickness–your body has to find that one cell with who happened to make the right antibody in order to tell it to replicate.

Anyway that’s just kind of a cool fact. 

You’ve probably heard names like “helper B cell” or “helper T cell” in discussions about the immune system. For allergic reactions, you have regulatory T cells. These guys are in charge of both making sure you remain tolerant to allergens–and in charge of your allergic reactions. When your regulatory T cells react, they trigger an inflammatory response.

How does it all start? Well it starts when an allergen gets into your body, and cells capture samples of that allergen (this also happens when bacteria get into you). After presenting that sample to immune cells (they’re probably in your spleen), and both your T and B cells start spilling antibodies specific to that allergen into your blood. This process is called sensitization. Being sensitized doesn’t necessarily mean you will have an allergic reaction next time you run into the allergen–but it does open the door. 


Back to pollen. Some 30% of American adults and 40% of American kids have some kind of allergy, with pollen being among some of the most common out there. Part of that is because you can be sensitized to pollen pretty easily–you’re literally inhaling it all the time. 

It’s just the problem is that once your immune system decides that something is going to trigger an immune response–it’s basically never going to undo that impression. First impressions are super import, both in life and apparently when it comes to having the sniffles around grass.

Speaking of grass, see if you know how to mow your own lawn here.

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.