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Tree Pollen Allergy

Tree pollen is a common cause of allergy symptoms, especially in the early spring. Here are some key facts about allergies to elm, oak, and other trees.

Understanding Tree Pollen Allergies

Most trees release their pollen in the late winter or early spring. Tree pollens that trigger allergies tend to be very fine and powdery. The wind can carry them for miles.

While pollen may be almost invisible, inhaling even small amounts can trigger allergy symptoms.

Trees that often trigger allergies include:

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

People with tree pollen allergies sometimes assume that trees with colorful flowers -- like apple or cherry trees -- will trigger symptoms. In fact, flowering trees usually have bigger, stickier pollen that doesn't blow in the wind or cause symptoms.

What Makes a Tree Pollen Allergy Worse?

  • Warm, windy days. Wind picks up dry pollen and sends it into the air. When it's cold or damp, pollen counts are usually lower.
  • Certain fruits and vegetables. If you have nasal allergies to certain trees, you have a higher risk of allergic symptoms from some fruits and vegetables. For instance, if you're allergic to birch trees, you may develop itchiness or swelling in your mouth or around your face after eating almonds, apples, carrots, celery, cherries, coriander, fennel, hazelnuts, kiwi, peaches, pears, or plums.
  • Having trigger trees in your yard. How close you live to a tree makes a big difference. A tree in your own yard could expose you to10 times as much pollen as a tree down the street.

Controlling Tree Pollen Allergy

  • Getting Tested. It's important to know which trees trigger your allergies. Once you do, you can figure out how to avoid their pollen.
  • Avoiding Contact. Take common sense steps to protect yourself. Stay inside when pollen counts are high. Wear a mask if you're working outside.
  • Removing Trigger Trees. If a tree in your yard is clearly causing symptoms, prune back the branches to reduce the amount of pollen it releases. You could also remove it entirely. Replace it with a tree less likely to cause allergies, like apple, cherry, dogwood, fir, or pine.  
  • Treatment. Medicine -- both OTC and prescription -- can help ease or prevent allergy symptoms. Allergy shots can also ease tree pollen allergies.

WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 02, 2012

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