Allergen of the month: tree pollen

For the next installment of our ongoing Allergen of the Month series, our focus is tree pollen.

 March can be a rough time for people with spring allergies.

The reason: Some types of trees start releasing pollen that can be carried in the wind for miles, even into your home, triggering sneezing, coughing and all the other unpleasant allergy symptoms. The particular culprits are trees with fine, powdery, barely visible pollen that can be easily blown away by a strong breeze. Breathing in just a small amount is enough to cause a reaction.

 Fast facts

• Apple, cherry, and other flowering trees tend to have bigger, stickier pollen that doesn’t blow in the wind—or cause allergy symptoms.

• Oak trees can produce anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 pollen grains per cubic meter of air.

• In the 1940’s, the USDA recommended selecting male dioecious trees over females, because they tend to produce fewer fruits or seeds and, thus, are easier to maintain.

• But male dioecious trees trigger the worst reactions.

• The box elder maple produces more pollen than any other maple.

• People who are allergic to birch trees might have allergic reactions to fruit and vegetables.

 Where to find them

You may be allergic to only one type of tree pollen or to multiple varieties. Thus, when and where you experience symptoms depends on which pollen is your nemesis and from what tree it originates. In the Midwest, for example, maple, elm, and ash, among others, spread their seeds in March and early April. Texas, on the other hand, has many mountain cedars, which can blanket entire sections of the state early in the season, followed by the eastern red cedar.

How to prevent them

• Get tested, so you can determine which trees trigger your allergies and how to minimize your exposure to their pollen.

• If there are problematic trees in your yard, prune back the branches to reduce the amount of pollen they release.

• Or take drastic action and remove the whole tree, perhaps replacing it with a more allergy-friendly variety.

• Consider getting allergy shots.

• To reduce the presence of tree pollen in your home, use a smart air purifier with a HEPA air filter, like Airmega.


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