Spring is here and everyone is enjoying the warmer weather, spending more time outside and beginning spring cleanups and yard work, not to mention spring sports. While there are many good things about spring, the worst is the pollen.

If you suffer from allergies, you already know that pollen is in the air. Pollen, an allergy trigger for one in five Americans, is surging year after year. If you don't suffer from allergies, consider yourself lucky. Despite suffering from the symptoms of allergies, the pollen is evident just by looking outside. Everything is coated in yellow dust and the yellow powder has taken over, coated cars, smothered the ground, and is drifting through the air.

According to Southernliving.com, two weeks of very warm weather in February has caused many pollen producing trees and shrubs to come into blooms two to three weeks early.

Arkansas residents are no strangers when it comes to the sniffles and sneezes during allergy season. In fact, central Arkansas has it pretty bad. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA), Little Rock is in the top 20 worst cities to live in for those who suffer from allergies. Due to the high weed and mold counts in Arkansas, especially Little Rock, Arkansas rated ninth in the country for allergies last year, as stated on Pollentec.com. In 2015, Little Rock was rated number 19. According to Pollen.com’s National Allergy Map, numerous states in the south and southeast are currently being affected by high pollen levels, from Arizona to Arkansas to New York.

So why is it so bad this year? Well, like many other problems we face today, a key culprit is climate change. For the past few years, the tide of pollen that accompanies the onset of spring has been rising. A warming world thanks to human-induced climate change is both bringing forward and extending the pollen season and helping plants to release even more pollen than normal. Unfortunately, it’s only set to get worse. Like the years before it, 2019 has the potential to be the worst year ever for pollen allergies, causing an unwelcome surge in the itchy eyes and running noses that come with them.

Tree pollen is a common cause of allergy symptoms, especially in the early spring. Here are some key facts about allergies to elm, oak, and other trees.

Understanding Tree Pollen Allergies

Most trees release their pollen in the late winter or early spring. Tree pollens that trigger allergies tend to be very fine and powdery. The wind can carry them for miles.

While pollen may be almost invisible, inhaling even small amounts can trigger allergy symptoms.

Trees that often trigger allergies include:

  • Ash
  • Aspen
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Box elder
  • Cedar
  • Cottonwood
  • Elm
  • Hickory
  • Mountain elder
  • Mulberry
  • Oak
  • Pecan
  • Willow

People with tree pollen allergies sometimes assume that trees with colorful flowers, like apple or cherry trees, pwill trigger symptoms. In fact, flowering trees usually have bigger, stickier pollen that doesn't blow in the wind or cause symptoms.

What Makes a Tree Pollen Allergy Worse?

  • Warm, windy days. Wind picks up dry pollen and sends it into the air. When it's cold or damp, pollen counts are usually lower.
  • Certain fruits and vegetables. If you have nasal allergies to certain trees, you have a higher risk of allergic symptoms from some fruits and vegetables. For instance, if you're allergic to birch trees, you may develop itchiness or swelling in your mouth or around your face after eating almonds, apples, carrots, celery, cherries, coriander, fennel, hazelnuts, kiwi, peaches, pears, or plums.
  • Having trigger trees in your yard. How close you live to a tree makes a big difference. A tree in your own yard could expose you to 10 times as much pollen as a tree down the street.

Controlling Tree Pollen Allergies

  • Getting Tested. It's important to know which trees trigger your allergies. Once you do, you can figure out how to avoid their pollen.
  • Avoiding Contact. Take common sense steps to protect yourself. Stay inside when pollen counts are high. Wear a mask if you're working outside.
  • Removing Trigger Trees. If a tree in your yard is clearly causing symptoms, prune back the branches to reduce the amount of pollen it releases. You could also remove it entirely. Replace it with a tree less likely to cause allergies, like apple, cherry, dogwood, fir, or pine.
  • Treatment. Medicine - both OTC and prescription can help ease or prevent allergy symptoms. Allergy shots can also ease tree pollen allergies.

Treatment Options for allergies/hay fever

  • AVOIDANCE of the allergen,
  • MEDICATION (anti-histamines)
  • IMMUNOTHERAPY (allergy shots)

These three treatment options can be used individually or in combination. There are many over the counter medications that do not require a prescription, as well as herbal and home remedies. Your primary care doctor or an allergist can help as well. Tests are available to determine which pollen sources are causing your allergies and they can assist in determining if a prescription medication or allergy shots are a good fit for your treatment.