I suffer quite badly from hayfever every year and have to take tablets, but I didn’t realize how much tree pollen specifically can impact hayfever sufferers every spring and summer.
Depending on your geographic location, the tree pollen allergy season begins in February when trees start producing pollen and ends in July when they stop. Tree pollen is released early in the morning, and slows down later in the day, with rain further reducing the amount of pollen in the air.
Let’s dive down into the subject of the tree pollen allergy season in more detail, and discover what it is, when it starts and how long it runs for…
What is The Tree Pollen Allergy Season?
Tree pollen allergy is a type of hay fever. The symptoms are triggered when trees begin to produce their pollen. The tree pollen allergy season refers to the time of year when this occurs, leading to symptoms in folks specifically allergic to tree pollen.
Pollen is the powdery substance that plants use for reproduction. During pollination season, the plant releases pollen, which is then carried either by insects (most famously, the bee) or airborne on the breeze. When there’s a lot of pollen in the air, it’s described as being a “high pollen count”, and that’s when hay fever sufferers really start to struggle.
Because there are so many different species of trees, the allergy season is long. It’s the first of the big three allergy seasons: tree pollen, grass pollen, and in the fall, weed pollen. What are the symptoms of tree pollen hay fever? They’re similar to a bad cold that won’t go away, and we’ll take a closer look at that shortly.
The good news about tree pollen allergy? Not every type of tree produces allergens: in fact, there are as few as 100 species of tree that cause pollen allergy.
The next piece of good news? If you’re allergic to one type of tree pollen, you’re unlikely to be allergic to any others. So, choose your trees carefully, and you’ll experience fewer symptoms. How you identify the individual species can be a bit trickier…
What Months of Year is Tree Pollen Highest?
The tree pollen season starts early. It’s generally February or March, depending on the climate where you live, and what type of trees grow in your area. However, in some zones, trees can start producing pollen as early as January.
The tree pollen count then stays pretty right through June, even as far as July. Hopefully, you don’t also suffer from grass pollen hay fever, so you’ll be fine outdoors again for August and the fall.
What Time of Day is Tree Pollen Highest?
Pollen in general is released early in the morning, and this slows down later in the day. You should be over the worst by midday at the latest. Then, you can get a pollen surge again later in the evening.
If you want to see a real pollen surge, take a look at the short film of a cedar tree. It’s being shaken, so this isn’t the natural process. Even so, it shows you just how much pollen a tree can produce in one hit.
Does Rain Reduce The Amount of Tree Pollen?
Rain can reduce the amount of tree pollen in the air. Plants generally choose not to release pollen on damp or rainy days, as it simply gets washed away in the air rather than floating along on the breeze.
And speaking of breezes… Windy days are great for pollen (from the tree’s perspective) as those fine particles get blown around all over the place. A warm and windy day is perfect pollen conditions – and a sure sign that the hay fever sufferer needs to have a day indoors.
Thunderstorms can cause problems, as the humidity can cause the pollen grains to pop open, resulting in high concentrations of pollen. If your symptoms feel worse in a storm, even if it’s raining, that’s why.
What Are The Symptoms of Tree Pollen Allergy?
How do you know if you are experiencing tree pollen allergy and not simply a cold? Well, the symptoms are pretty similar; however, if your cold hasn’t gone in a week or two, that could be hay fever.
It’s especially difficult to tell the difference between tree pollen allergy and the common cold because the tree pollen season starts in late winter when many of us catch a cold.
The main symptoms of tree pollen allergy are:
- Runny or congested nose
- Watery and red eyes
- Itchy throat and eyes
- If you have asthma, it might be worse if you also have tree pollen allergy
If you want to know more, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s website is a good place to start.
You might also experience a swollen and/or itchy mouth if you eat certain foods. This can include almonds, apples, carrots, celery, cherries, coriander, fennel, hazelnuts, kiwi, peaches, pears, and plums. This often happens if the proteins in a food mimic pollen, basically tricking your body into reacting as if it’s just consumed an allergen. Grass pollen also traditionally causes hay fever too.
What is The Best Allergy Medicine For Tree Pollen?
The main treatment for pollen allergy symptoms is an antihistamine. Histamines are chemicals found in cells in your bodies. This is responsible for the allergy symptoms we experience when we come into contact with allergens like tree pollen. So, we treat histamines with antihistamines.
These are available over the counter, and you don’t need to see a doctor or have a prescription. Commonly used antihistamines include cetirizine (brand name Zyrtec), fexofenadine (brand name Allegra), and loratadine (Alavert or Claritin).
If your allergy symptoms are severe, or you don’t feel that the over-the-counter drugs are alleviating the symptoms well enough, book an appointment to see your doctor. They may be able to prescribe a stronger medication, or perhaps look into the possibility of immunotherapy.
We’ll just say again that we’re not medics, and our knowledge of pollen allergies mainly comes from hanging out in yards all our lives! If you have any concerns about hay fever or allergens, please speak with a professional.
Can You Prevent Tree Pollen Allergies?
You can’t prevent a tree pollen allergy from developing – but you can reduce your exposure and also take medication to relieve the symptoms.
If you’re aware of the most allergen-producing trees, you can try to avoid them. Here are some of the worst offenders:
- Elders (box and mountain)
Fruit trees are a good idea, as they produce bigger, stickier pollen grains that can’t easily be airborne (they rely more on insect transmission).
If you are unfortunate enough to have an oak pollen allergy and live near a group of mighty oak trees, there are still ways you can minimize your exposure to pollen.
This is general advice about avoiding pollen; however, it applies to tree pollen as well as it does to grass or weed pollen:
- During the pollen season, stay indoors on high pollen count days and during peak times
- If you can close the windows and stick on the air con, even better
- Wash your hair before bed, so you don’t transfer pollen onto your bedding
- Wash your clothes in the machine every day, if you’ve been outside
- Dry them in the dryer rather than on an outside line. Clothes and sheets flapping in the breeze basically capture airborne pollen
- Leave your shoes by the door, so you’re not bringing pollen into your home in the treads
- Vacuum regularly to pick up any particles in the carpets and rugs
- If there’s a chance your pet is bringing pollen in on their paws, try and wipe their feet after they’ve been outdoors. Dogs will probably be quite happy with this bit of pampering. If you have cats, you may find it easier to have a mat by their kitty door or door, which you can vacuum regularly
- Wearing a mask when outdoors can help, as can a hat and shades
I always find antihistamine tablets really help my hayfever if I catch the symptoms early enough.
However, if I’ve run out of tablets or get to them too late once the hayfever has set in – then I’m always in for a couple of hours of sneezing, sore eyes, and an itchy nose.
It’s also good to know from my research that later in the day, preferably after a little bit of rain – would be the optimal time to work in the yard if the pollen count is going to be high that day. 🙂