Tree Pollen Signals the Onset of Spring

The beginning of spring can be a time of awakening and a much welcomed reprieve from the cold and gloomy winter weather. However, for many of us, springtime also means the beginning of allergy season. For those that suffer from pollen allergies, the effects can start to appear as early as January in the southern US states while those in the north won’t feel it until until May or June. Trees are the earliest producers of pollen and trigger the first onset allergy symptoms in those that have a sensitivity to pollen. In fact, the pollen count is currently so elevated in some areas of the United States that people without a known allergy to tree pollen can feel some allergy symptoms.

Interesting Tree Pollen Facts

  • The earliest seasonal allergen of the year
  • The oak is the most common allergenic tree
  • Tree pollen is similar to proteins found in some varieties of nuts, fruits, and vegetables. This means there is a higher chance for someone that has tree allergies to also have some food allergies
  • The World Health Organization and the International Union of Immunological Societies (WHO/IUIS) allergen nomenclature subcommittee have established 53 different allergens associated with trees.
  • The onset, length, and severity of pollen season is affected by changes in weather

When To Expect Tree Pollen Season In Your Area

As seen on the map below, tree pollen season rolls out as early as January in the southern states and lasts into June. This season begins starting a little later the as you move north up the map. The best region for those with tree pollen allergies is in the northern states as tree pollen is usually only active for about 4 months out of the year. In the southern states it gets warmer earlier in the year and tree pollen can be in full force for a six whole months.

tree pollen season

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which Trees Are The Biggest Culprits?

Pollen allergens are viewed as a significant health factor responsible for allergic rhinitis and asthma, so there have been and continue to be numerous in-depth studies regarding this subject. Allergenic trees can basically be divided into into four orders that have been determined to be the most potent sources: Fagales, Lamiales, Proteales, and Pinales. There is a pattern of geographical distribution for each order and allergenic trees are found in almost every part of the world. Below is an outline of the basic details of each order of allergenic tree and the typical location of each within the United States.

tree pollen is the most common allergen that can begin as early as January
Geographic distribution of allergenic Fagales, Lamiales, Proteales, and Pinales species. The distribution data were extracted from maps provided on www.eol.org. Photographs of florescences of members of the Fagales (birch Betula verrucosa), Proteales (plane tree Platanus acerifolia), Lamiales (lilac Syringa vulgaris and olive Olea europaea), and Pinales (mountain cedar Juniperus ashei and Japanese cedar Cryptomeria japonica) were obtained from Fotolia.
  • Fagales
    • come in tree or shrub form
    • may have cylindrical or spiked flowers
    • grow in more temperate climates
    • found mainly in eastern and extreme western US
    • types include Birch, Alder, Hornbeam, Hazelnut, Beech, Chestnut, and Oak
  • Proteales
    • drops leaves annually and grow laterally
    • produce ball shaped flowers
    • located mainly in Arizona, New Mexico, and California
    • types include American Sycamore, California Sycamore, Arizona Sycamore, Western Sycamore, American Plane, and Buttonwood
  • Lamiales
    • flowering shrubs or trees
    • scattered widely across the United States
    • includes over 23,000 species, four of which have been noted to contain allergenic proteins
    • types include European Ash, Common Privet, Olive, and Lilac
  • Pinales
    • produce cones
    • the most widespread group throughout a majority of the US
    • there are seven families within this order, but only one genera (Cupressaceae) has been marked as allergenic
    • types include False Cypress, Japanese Cedar, Arizona Cypress, Mediterranean Cypress, Japanese Cypress, and Junipers

Dealing With the Symptoms

You probably have a tree pollen allergy if you find yourself sneezing and sniffling at the start of spring, or even earlier if you in the southern US states. Many times, the symptoms of a pollen allergy are referred to as hay fever. These symptoms include:

  • sneezing, runny nose
  • congestion, stuffy nose
  • red, itchy, watery eyes
  • swollen or puffy eyes

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommend the following treatments:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Nasal corticosteroids
  • Leukotriene receptors
  • Cromolyn sodium nasal spray
  • Immunotherapy

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