Top Tips for Managing Tree Pollen Allergies

in Outdoor Allergies, Tree Pollen
Photo: Getty A single birch tree can release
over 5 billion pollen grains
in a year.

Millions of Americans suffer from spring allergies. If you’re one of them, take heart; there are steps you can take to minimize your symptoms.

Keep windows and doors shut, or that lovely spring breeze will carry allergens inside. Once it’s warm indoors, use an air conditioner.

• After being outside, change your clothes – and put the ones you were wearing in the wash.

• Leave shoes outside so you don’t tramp in the pollen.

Don’t hang laundry outside to dry – it will collect pollen.

• Take a shower before bed to remove pollen from your hair and avoid spreading it all over your pillow.

• Avoid outdoor activities in the morning, as trees tend to pollinate before 10 a.m.

• Run errands shortly after a rainfall, when the damp holds pollen on the ground.

• If you have a pet, wipe down its fur, which gets laden with pollen, before the animal comes inside.

• Check pollen counts in your area at AAAAI’s National Allergy Bureau (which relies on data collected by allergist volunteers across the U.S.).

Don’t just tough out tree pollen allergy symptoms – ask your doctor about antihistamines, nasal sprays, and potentially, allergy shots.

Can You Avoid Tree Pollen Allergies by Moving?

There’s no easy escape from tree pollen allergies, since airborne tree pollens can travel great distances. “Many of these pollens are small and light, and even if the grove of trees is a mile away, you can still be miserable,” says Dr. Frank Virant, head of the allergy division at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Plus, the symptoms can follow you almost wherever you move.

Years ago, you could escape spring tree allergy season by skipping down to Arizona for a few months. “It used to be that people with allergies to alder or birch would go to places like Phoenix, Tucson or Palm Springs and stay until the end of April or until it got too hot,” says Virant.

Today, there would be almost no point. While these cities still don’t have alder and birch, many plants that are not indigenous to the area are being planted, says Virant. Within a few years, newcomers become sensitized to these new trees and allergic symptoms return with a vengeance.

What’s more, living in an urban center, where the are fewer trees, is also no defense from pollen.

“Pollen doesn’t respect the city limits,” says Dr. John Costa, medical director of allergy clinical practice at Harvard Medical School-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Being in the city is no protection just because there are fewer trees. The pollens blow into the city.”

That said, some cities are worse for allergy sufferers than others. And those with tree pollen allergies will breathe more easily close to the seashore.

“If you’re facing the water, you’re protected, because offshore winds prevent you from getting the pollen from inland,” says Dr. Donald Dvorin, an allergist and certified pollen counter. “Patients tell us that as soon as they visit the ocean, they’re fine.”

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