Allergic Living’s Tree Pollen Allergy Field Guide
Tree Pollen Allergy Tour: South Central
Texas has gained notoriety as an allergy hot spot, beginning even in winter, as the mountain cedar (in fact, not a cedar at all – it’s a species of juniper) pollinates and blankets entire sections of the state, says Virant.
Its allergenic reach stretches from Austin to Dallas and beyond. The Edwards Plateau in Texas has the largest population of the mountain cedar, also called Ashe Juniper or Juniperus ashei, which some claim is the biggest contributor to “cedar fever.”
The mountain cedar pollinates early in the season, and following close on its heels are the Eastern Red-Cedar, or Juniperus virginiana, as well as the oak – both seriously sneeze-inducing trees, which spread their windborne pollen through the end of spring.
Elsewhere in the south central region, cedars, elms, ash, maples, and box elders wreak havoc among allergy sufferers at this time of year.
Tree Pollen Allergy Tour: South Atlantic
In Florida, beware the olive tree. “Of all the trees, among the ones that are the most allergenic would be the olives, on a grain per grain basis,” says Ogren.
A surprising offender to watch for is the palm tree, a favorite for low-water landscaping; Disney World, for example, has thousands of them. Unfortunately, they’re related to grasses, so if you’re allergic to grass pollen, you may also be sensitive to palm pollen.
The Chinese Pistache, too, is posing a problem in many areas. This hardy tree, which produces a beautiful fall color, is fast replacing another colorful tree, the Sweetgum, which is less allergenic but has aggressive roots that are destroying concrete sidewalks in many communities.
Florida is also home to the usual suspects that can be an allergy sufferer’s nightmare – junipers, cedars, elm and oak – as well as the casuarina, privet and laurel trees.
Tree Pollen Allergy Tour: North East
New Jersey is definitely “pine land,” says Dr. Donald Dvorin, certified pollen counter and co-founder of The Asthma Center, an allergy clinic with nine locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Pine tree pollen can become so dense, says Dvorin, that “it almost looks like smoke is coming out of the trees” – so much so that people unfamiliar with the phenomenon have been known to call the fire department.
Although one grain of pine pollen is about 100 microns in size – far smaller than the head of a pin – it’s relatively large compared to other pollen, making it less likely to be windborne, and also less likely to get into your airways and lungs. That’s partly why some experts don’t believe that pine pollen is a common allergen.
Still, according to Dr. John Costa, medical director of allergy clinical practice at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, “If you live in an area surrounded by pine trees and that pine pollen is falling directly downward and landing on your car, your deck and your lawn furniture, and then you touch these things and put your finger near your eye or nose, it can cause problems.”
Next page: More allergy trees in the North East and the Midwest