Tree pollen season has already started with Alder and Hazel pollen about to peak towards end of February and early March. If you have tree pollen allergy, then you might have already started getting some of the typical symptoms. Tree pollens do affect a significant portion of the population each spring and early summer. Symptoms can vary from a mild itchy throat to full-on hives, runny nose, and allergic conjunctivitis.
What causes tree pollen allergies?
Allergic reactions to pollen are caused by the immune system’s response to what it mistakenly perceives as a threat. When tree pollen particles enter the body of someone who is allergic, they trigger the production of antibodies and the release of histamines. This starts the ‘allergic cascade’ leading to the symptoms commonly associated with allergies.
Not all trees cause allergies, but certain types produce highly allergenic pollen. Trees such as birch, oak, alder, cedar, and hazelnut are known for their high pollen release and potential to trigger allergic reactions.
When does tree pollen start?
The tree pollen season tends to start in late January, with Alder which is the earliest tree to produce pollen. This peaks around Feb/ March, but by this time other trees such as Ash, Birch, Oak, and the London Plane also start releasing their pollens.
When does tree pollen season end?
The overall peak tree pollen release is around April/ May, so early spring. By the beginning of summer, most trees have released their pollen. Late tree pollen coming from pine and olive might still be present in the air but in small amounts. Of course, atypical tree pollen release could still occur depending on the climate and location.
Tree Pollen Count
Understanding the types of trees in your area and their pollen release patterns can be instrumental in managing seasonal allergies.
A pollen count tracker such as ours can give you up to date tree pollen count levels and a forecast for the next day. This could help you take proactive steps in minimising your exposure during high pollen times, and thus reduce the severity of your symptoms.
How tree pollen could affect you
Tree pollen is among the smallest and lightest of pollen types, allowing it to travel great distances in the air. You can therefore be affected by a particular type of tree even if you don’t live right next door to it.
When you inhale the pollen, your immune system. mistakenly identifies it as an invader, and if you are sensitive to it then this will trigger an allergic reaction.
At the cellular level, a rather complex immune response takes place which forms part of the allergic cascade that is triggered. You can read more about the pathogenesis of allergies in this research paper if you wish.
Here are the symptoms categorised by body system. Under each system, these can vary from mild (e.g. slightly blocked or runny nose) to severe.
|Sneezing and Runny or stuffy nose (Allergic rhinitis)
|Itchy eyes, Watering, Redness (Allergic Conjunctivitis)
|Itchy throat, Coughing, Wheezing (in more severe cases)
|Itchiness, Eczema flare up
|Fatigue (often due to poor sleep quality if you are having tree pollen symptoms at night), Headache (occasionally)
Tree Pollen Allergy Diagnosis
During the initial consultation with an allergist, will go through a detailed medical history and physical examination.
A skin prick test may be recommended as the next step to give a definitive diagnosis.
During a skin prick test, small amounts of different allergen extracts are introduced into the skin to observe for reactions, indicating a sensitivity. With this test, we can pinpoint exactly the type of tree pollen that you are allergic to.
Understanding the exact type of tree pollen that triggers your allergic reactions could help you better avoid exposure. It may also help you be better prepared to deal with outdoor trips or walks during the spring months.
Deep Dive into Specific Trees
As we now know, the severity and timing of allergic reactions can vary depending on the type of tree pollen. For a more detailed pollen calendar, see our pollen count page. The calendar goes into more depth about the pollen release period for different tree, grass or weed pollens.
Here are some common tree pollens in the UK
Poplar Tree Pollen (also known as Cottonwood)
Poplar trees, known for their fluffy cotton-like seeds, release large quantities of pollen into the air. They are present in the majority of UK cities, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and so on. This pollen can travel long distances, affecting individuals far from the actual trees. People allergic to poplar tree pollen might notice their symptoms worsening on windy days in early spring when pollen counts are high.
Sycamore Tree Pollen
Sycamore pollen is released in early spring. The heavy, sticky nature of this pollen means it can be especially bothersome for those living near these trees. Sycamore trees are prevalent in urban and suburban areas, making them a common allergen source for many residents in the cities.
Ash Tree Pollen
Ash trees produce pollen that is highly allergenic. This pollen is released in large amounts during the spring. This leads to significant discomfort for allergic individuals and it may cause some of the harshest symptoms. Ash tree pollen is known for causing severe allergic reactions, including intense sneezing, itching, and even asthma attacks.
Beech Tree Pollen
Beech tree pollen is released later in the spring. Although beech trees are not as widespread as some other species, their pollen can cause allergic reactions for those sensitive to it. Symptoms include itchy throat, watery eyes, and nasal congestion.
Plane trees are a common sight in many urban and suburban areas in the UK and around the world. They start pollinating usually in early spring and can also release large amounts of pollen into the air. Plane tree pollen is known for causing allergic reactions similar to those triggered by other tree pollens, including sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, nasal congestion, and sometimes asthma-like symptoms.
Management and Treatment Options
Effective management of tree pollen allergies involves a combination of prevention strategies, lifestyle adjustments, and medical treatments.
The goal for you should be to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Prevention strategies include staying indoors on days with high pollen counts, keeping windows closed during peak seasons, and using air purifiers with HEPA filters. Regularly washing clothes and showering after you’ve been outdoors in a high pollen environment could also avoid spreading it indoors.
Medical treatments include antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, decongestants, eye drops, and immunotherapy.
What is the best antihistamine for tree pollen in the UK?
The best antihistamine is the one that works best for you. Everyone responds to antihistamines differently and their effectiveness varies.
Allevia (Fexofenadine) is thought to be the most effective oral antihistamine in dealing with pollen allergies, including tree pollen.
Immunotherapy for tree pollen allergy
Immunotherapy is available for tree pollen allergy, and we offer it here at Holistic Allergy in Bournemouth too.
The role of immunotherapy is to gradually desensitise the body to pollen, reducing the severity of allergic reactions over time.
Prior to starting immunotherapy, we need to perform a skin prick test to identify the exact type of pollen that you are allergic to. Some patients may be allergic to more than one type. This means that the immunotherapy may have to be combined.
For example, we offer combined immunotherapy to Birch, Alder, and Hazel or individually to Birch and Olive trees as subcutaneous injections. These may also be referred to as allergy shots.
Sublingual immunotherapy is also available for a tree mix of Alder and Birch tree pollen.
Have a chat with our allergist to decide on the best course of treatment for you.
The future of tree pollen diagnosis and management
With advancements in allergy research and treatment, the future looks promising. We are likely going to see further immunotherapy options for tree pollen being released in the coming years. These should be even more effective than the ones currently on the market. Ultimately, the aim is to improve the quality of life if you suffer from tree pollen allergies every year.
Understanding tree pollen and its impact on your allergy is the first step toward effectively managing and relieving your symptoms.
- Stay informed about pollen counts,
- Implement preventive measures as outlined above,
- Explore the right treatment options for you with an allergy specialist.