Tree Pollen & Allergies
It is that time of the year again — spring is here and pollen is everywhere. You may see it covering everything outside, but many people also notice it from seasonal allergy symptoms.
An allergy is an abnormal reaction to a very small amount of a specific substance, called an allergen. Common symptoms of allergic reactions include watery eyes, itching, coughing, congestion, hives, runny nose, fatigue, asthma attacks, and, in severe cases, death.
Fifty million people each year are affected by allergies caused by plant pollens and airborne particles of dust and animal dander (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America [AAFA] 2005). As a whole, allergy sufferers spend $7 billion a year on doctor visits and allergy medication (AAFA 2005).
All flowering plants, including trees, produce pollen, so that they can reproduce. The process of pollination develops new plant seeds. Pollen is dry and light, enabling it to float through the wind and travel several miles.
Plants that depend on wind for dispersal have to produce massive amounts of pollen since only a small amount will actually result in seed production.
Plants pollinated by insects don’t have to produce as much pollen because of the efficiency of the insects in distributing the pollen.
Changes in the weather directly influence the amount of pollen and how it will affect allergy sufferers. Rain dampens pollen and reduces its ability to flow through the air. A freeze can also slow down a tree's rate of producing pollen. Windy and warm weather can increase pollen amounts.
Reducing Pollen Exposure
Proper planning can help reduce the potential for pollen to cause problems for people with allergies
- Dry clothes in an automatic dryer rather than hanging them outside to avoid pollen collecting on clothing and being carried indoors.
- Consider limiting outdoor activities during the pollen season (Florida trees often release pollen from January to June).
- Stay inside during peak pollen times (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
- Restrict outdoor activities during days with high winds and low humidity.
- Shower after spending time outdoors to remove pollen from hair and skin.
- Use air filters and clean regularly, or run an air conditioner and change the air filter frequently.
- Wear a dust mask when mowing the lawn, gardening, or raking leaves.
Adapted and excerpted from:
J. Seitz and F. Escobedo, Urban Trees and Allergies in North Florida (FOR 206), School of Forest Resources and Conservation (rev. 2/2012).
Related Sites & Articles
- UF/IFAS Publications
- Spring Winds Move Oak Pollen (pdf)
- UF/IFAS Sites
- Fall Allergies
- Other Sites & Publications
- Pollen & Spore Levels: South Atlantic--American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology