Allergens like pollen are nothing more than foreign plant antigens. The stimulus for sneezing gets triggered when allergens first enter the nasal tissue. Pollen allergens encounter the plasma cells in the nose, which respond by producing antibodies. These antibodies attach to mast cells, which are white blood cells containing the chemical histamine. As more antibodies are produced, they cause the mast cells to release histamine. Histamine then produces allergy symptoms. A stuffy and runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes help to remove the invading pollen. Medications called antihistamines may be used to help alleviate severe allergy symptoms.
Update Date 5/10/2014
Updated by: Stuart I. Henochowicz, MD, FACP, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology, Georgetown University Medical School, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.