Spring Pollen – Which Trees Cause Allergies?

Tree Pollen Allergies 

Pollen is released from plants to reproduce. Larger pollens are transferred by insects, smaller microscopic pollens are windblown. Insect pollenated plants include colorful flowers, whereas windblown pollen comes from trees, grasses, and certain weeds. 

If you experience allergic symptoms in the springtime, you are likely reacting to pollen from trees. The trees that trigger allergies are usually the ones that have pollen that is very fine and powdery. The troublesome tree doesn’t have to be in your backyard. It can be miles away but when the wind blows, it carries the pollen right to your front door. Even inhaling a tiny amount can send allergy symptoms into overdrive. 

Which Trees Cause Allergies? 

Springtime allergy symptoms are caused by hardwood trees which have light, windblown pollen spores. Surprisingly, the yellow blanket that covers our cars and decks each spring is pine pollen which does not trigger allergy symptoms in most people. Pine pollen spores are heavy, and most often fall to the ground. Few people are truly allergic to pine pollen; however, many find it irritating to their nose and eyes. This yellow dust when breathed into your nose and mouth can be considered an ‘irritant.’ The smaller spores, like from hardwood trees, are more likely to be inhaled deeper, and are more likely to impact the immune system triggering an allergic reaction.  

The trees that cause allergy symptoms in the southeast can include: 

  • Oak 
  • Hickory 
  • Mulberry 
  • Sycamore 
  • Sweet Gum 
  • Hackberry 
  • Willow 
  • Walnut 
  • Juniper 
  • Elm 
  • Alder 
  • Maple 

Some people think trees with colorful flowers, such as apple and cherry, would be the ones to trigger your allergy symptoms. But contrary to popular belief, the flowering trees are not usually the problem. The pollen from flowering trees tends to be bigger and stickier and therefore less likely to travel in the wind. The trees with light, powdery, often invisible pollen are the usual culprits for springtime allergy symptoms. 

What Makes It Worse 

The things that make allergies to tree pollen worse include: 1) warm, windy days, 2) being outside between 5 am and 12 noon when pollen levels are highest 3) consuming foods that cross-react with allergens found in both pollen and certain raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  For example, someone allergic to Birch tree pollen can experience allergy symptoms if they consume almonds, apples, hazelnuts, peaches, pears, plums, carrots, celery, cherry, or kiwi. This is known as Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome (PFAS), sometimes called oral allergy syndrome. People affected by PFAS can usually eat these same items in cooked form because the proteins are distorted during the heating process. 

If you suspect that you’re allergic to tree pollen, our advice is to get tested. Allergy testing will confirm your specific allergic triggers. Many people find that they have multiple allergens they react to, with trees being just one of them.  An accurate diagnosis leads to an effective treatment plan and a reduction in symptoms. 

If you have airborne pollen allergies, it can be tough to avoid your triggers. But symptoms can be controlled or almost eliminated using environmental control measures, medications, and if prescribed, either allergy drops or shots. 

To meet with a board-certified specialist in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, contact us today through our website, or at (770) 459-0620. Our team of experts look forward to helping you.  

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