Tree Pollen: Spring’s First Allergy Offender

Allergies & Asthma

When spring allergy season first starts, causing you to sniffle and sneeze, tree pollen is to blame. Trees start producing pollen as early as January in the Southern U.S. Many trees keep producing pollen through May.

What Are the Symptoms of a Tree Pollen Allergy?

Pollen allergy symptoms are commonly called “hay fever.” Pollen released by trees, as well as grasses and weeds, cause these symptoms. They include:

  • Runny nose (also known as rhinorrhea – this is typically a clear, thin nasal discharge)
  • Stuffy nose (due to blockage or nasal congestion – one of the most common and troublesome symptoms)
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose, eyes, ears, and mouth
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Swelling around the eyes

If you have allergic asthma and are allergic to tree pollen, you might also have asthma symptoms while the trees are pollinating.

Tree pollen is light so the wind can carry it for miles. These light, dry grains easily find their way to your sinuses, lungs, and eyes, making them hard to avoid.

What Trees Cause the Most Symptoms?

Some tree pollen causes more problems than others. Some of the trees that cause the most symptoms are:

  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Aspen
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Box elder
  • Cedar
  • Cottonwood
  • Elm
  • Hickory
  • Juniper
  • Maple
  • Mulberry
  • Oak
  • Olive
  • Pecan
  • Poplar
  • Walnut
  • Willow

Being allergic to some trees could cause you to react to certain foods. It happens because the tree pollen is similar to the protein in some fruits, vegetables, and nuts.1 Your immune system gets confused and can’t tell the difference between the two. Eating these foods may cause your mouth or face to itch or swell. These foods may include apples, cherries, pears, and more. This is called pollen food allergy syndrome (PFAS) or oral allergy syndrome (OAS). Birch and alder trees cause the most PFAS food reactions.

In some cases, your tree pollen allergy may cross-react with some nuts, like peanuts or almonds. If you have mouth itching or swelling while eating nuts, you could have a more serious, life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, which is common with nut allergies. If this happens to you, call your doctor right away.

What Can I Do to Relieve My Pollen Allergy Symptoms?

Thankfully, there are several options for relieving pollen allergy symptoms, available both over the counter and by prescription. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and treatment options. Your doctor might have you take a combination of medicines to keep your symptoms controlled. These medicines include:

  • Nasal sprays
  • Eye drops
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Leukotriene [loo-kuh-trahy-een] modifiers (such as montelukast)

If these medicines don’t completely relieve your symptoms, your doctor might also give you immunotherapy. This is a long-term treatment that can reduce the severity of your allergic reactions. It usually involves regular shots, tablets, or drops you take under the tongue.

You can also take steps to reduce your exposure to tree pollen:

  • If you haven’t had allergy testing, find a board-certified allergist to test you for pollen allergies. Work with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan.
  • Start taking allergy medicine before pollen season begins.
  • Limit your outdoor activities when pollen counts are high. This will cut down the amount of pollen allergen you inhale and help reduce your symptoms.
  • Watch pollen counts on a website like the National Allergy Bureau™.
  • Wear sunglasses and cover your hair when going outside.
  • Keep your windows closed during peak tree pollen season and use a CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® filter on your central air conditioner.
  • Wipe your pets off before they come indoors.
  • Dry your clothes in a dryer and not outside on a clothesline.
  • Change and wash clothes you wear during outdoor activities as soon as you come inside.

It may be hard to avoid tree pollen during the late winter and spring. But you can reduce your symptoms with the right treatment.

Medical Review: Content summarized from…tree-pollen-allergy/ which was reviewed June 2022 by John James, MD

It is important to stay up to date on news about asthma and allergies. By joining our community and following our blog, you will receive news about research and treatments. Our community also provides an opportunity to connect with other people who manage these conditions for support.


1. Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) | AAAAI. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2023, from…lergy-syndrome-(oas)

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