As spring approaches, many people look forward to the warmer weather and blooming flowers. However, for some, this time of year also brings tree allergies. Tree pollen is one of the most common allergens and can cause a range of symptoms including itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and congestion.
What are tree allergies?
Tree allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to tree pollen. The immune system identifies the pollen as a foreign invader and releases chemicals such as histamine to fight it off. These chemicals can cause inflammation and irritation in the nose, eyes, and throat, leading to the symptoms of allergies.
Which trees cause allergies?
Different trees release pollen at different times of the year, and some are more likely to cause allergies than others. Some common trees that cause allergies include:
- Box elder
It’s important to note that not everyone will react to all types of tree pollen. Some people may be allergic to one type of tree pollen but not another.
Pollen food allergy syndrome (PFAS), also known as oral allergy syndrome, is a condition in which people who are allergic to certain types of pollen also experience an allergic reaction to certain foods. The proteins in certain fruits, vegetables, and nuts are similar in structure to the proteins found in specific types of pollen. When a person with a pollen allergy eats one of these foods, their immune system can mistake the food protein for the pollen protein and trigger an allergic reaction.
The symptoms of pollen food allergy syndrome can include:
- Itching and swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat
- Hives or rash around the mouth
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach cramps or diarrhea
Pollen food allergy syndrome can occur with many different types of pollen and foods. Birch and alder trees are the most common tree pollens to cause PFAS. They can cross-react with apples, peaches, pears, cherries, almonds, and more.
What are the symptoms of tree allergies?
Symptoms of tree allergies can range from mild to severe and can include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Scratchy throat
For some people, tree allergies can also trigger asthma symptoms, such as wheezing or difficulty breathing.
How can tree allergies be treated?
If you suspect that you have tree allergies, it’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend allergy testing to determine which allergens are causing your symptoms.
Treatment for tree allergies may include:
- Antihistamine medications to reduce symptoms
- Nasal corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the nose
- Allergy shots (immunotherapy) to desensitize the immune system to tree pollen over time
- Avoiding exposure to tree pollen as much as possible
To reduce your exposure to tree pollen, you can:
- Stay indoors when pollen counts are high (usually in the morning)
- Keep windows and doors closed during pollen season
- Shower and change clothes after spending time outdoors
- Wear a mask when doing yard work or spending time outside
Tree allergies can be a nuisance for many people, but there are ways to manage the symptoms. If you suspect that you have tree allergies, see an allergist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. By taking steps to reduce your exposure to tree pollen, you can minimize the impact that allergies have on your daily life.
To learn more about tree allergies and to set up an appointment with our allergist, please contact us today at
West River ENT & Allergy.