Tree Pollen: Spring’s First Allergy Offender

 

When spring allergy season first starts, causing you to sniffle and sneeze, tree pollen is to blame. Trees start producing pollen as early as January in the Southern U.S. Many trees keep producing pollen through June.

What Are the Symptoms of a Tree Pollen Allergy?

Pollen allergy symptoms are commonly called “hay fever.” Pollen released by trees, as well as grasses and weeds, cause these symptoms. They include:

  • Runny nose and mucus production
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose, eyes, ears and mouth
  • Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Swelling around the eyes
     

If you have allergic asthma and are allergic to tree pollen, you might also have asthma symptoms while the trees are pollinating.

Tree pollen is finer than other pollens. Because of this, the wind can carry it for miles. These light, dry grains easily find their way to your sinuses, lungs and eyes, making them hard to avoid. 

What Trees Cause the Most Symptoms?

Some tree pollen causes more problems than others. Some of the trees that cause the most symptoms are: 

  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Aspen
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Box elder
  • Cedar
  • Cottonwood
  • Elm
  • Hickory
  • Mountain elder
  • Mulberry
  • Oak
  • Olive
  • Pecan
  • Poplar
  • Willow
     

Being allergic to some trees could cause you to react to certain foods. It happens because the tree pollen is similar to the protein in some fruits, vegetables and nuts.1 Your immune system gets confused and can’t tell the difference between the two. Eating these foods may cause your mouth or face to itch or swell. These foods may include apples, cherries, pears and more. This is called oral allergy syndrome (OAS). Birch and alder trees cause the most OAS food reactions.

In some cases, your tree pollen allergy may cross-react with some nuts, like peanuts or almonds. If you have mouth itching or swelling while eating nuts, you could have a more serious, life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, which is common with nut allergies. If this happens to you, call your doctor right away. 

What Can I Do to Relieve My Pollen Allergy Symptoms?

Thankfully, there are several options for relieving pollen allergy symptoms, available both over-the-counter and by prescription. Talk to your doctor or a board-certified allergist about your symptoms and treatment options. Your doctor might have you take a combination of medicines to keep your symptoms controlled. These medicines include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Nasal corticosteroids
  • Leukotriene (loo-kuh-trahy-een) receptors
  • Cromolyn sodium nose spray
     

If these medicines don’t completely relieve your symptoms, your doctor might also give you immunotherapy. This is a long-term treatment that can reduce the severity of your allergic reactions. It usually involves regular shots, tablets or drops you take under the tongue.

You can also take steps to reduce your exposure to tree pollen: 

  • If you haven’t had allergy testing, find a board-certified allergist to test you for pollen allergies. Work with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan.
  • Start taking allergy medicine before pollen season begins.
  • Learn about the trees in your area and when they produce the most pollen. For example, oak tree pollen is highest in the morning. If you are allergic to oak pollen, save your outdoor activities for later in the day.
  • Watch pollen counts on a website like the National Allergy Bureau™.
  • Keep your windows closed and use a CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® filter on your central air conditioner.
  • Avoid pets that spend a lot of time outdoors.
  • Dry your clothes in a dryer and not outside on a clothes line.
  • Change and wash clothes you wear during outdoor activities.
     

It may be hard to avoid tree pollen during the late winter and spring. But you can reduce your symptoms with the right treatment.

Medical Review February 2018.

References
1. Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) | AAAAI. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://www.aaaai.org/conditio...ergies-can-be-relate

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Comments (2)

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Since 2010 some 300 Salt Rooms, which offer natural Salt Room Therapy, have opening in the USA.  Developed by Russian pulmonologists in the mid 1990s, this therapy can greatly help with allergies, asthma and more.  It's not a quick fix, and most doctors in the USA are not familiar with it yet, so be proactive and research this one yourself.    

 Very early spring observation in your garden.

There are many questions at this time of the year about pollen in the garden - park or schoolyard. How can I find out, the difference between a male (pollen producing) shrub or tree and female shrub or tree ?

MALE flowers in early spring are YELLOWISH and the FEMALE flowers are RED. The flowers are in clusters during very early spring, before the leaves develop.

 

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