For most people in the UK grass pollen is the key trigger for their hay fever. But if you tend to get hay fever symptoms earlier in the year than other people, it could well be that you’re one of a significant number of people who are allergic to tree pollen. About 20% of hay fever sufferers are allergic to tree pollen.
Trees most likely to Cause Hay Fever
In the UK, the trees most likely to release pollen that causes hay fever are birch, alder, hazel and horse chestnut. If you’re allergic to tree pollen, you will probably find that your symptoms are at their worst between March and May.
Birch tree Pollen
The birch tree releases its pollen between March and May, and hay fever sufferers are likely to experience the worst of their symptoms during April. Birch tree pollen counts will be at their highest on dry, warm days, especially if there’s a breeze over areas wooded with birch trees. If you are allergic to birch pollen, you may also react to celery, raw tomato, raw carrots, apples and pears. Once the birch tree pollen season is over, the oak tree pollen season begins. This is usually towards the end of April and early May. More people are allergic to birch pollen rather than oak pollen.
Early season Hay Fever
The birch tree is not the only culprit for causing the symptoms of hay fever. If your hay fever begins really early in the year – perhaps as early as January – it could be that you’re allergic to the pollen of another type of tree. The hazel, elm, alder and yew are all capable of causing hay fever in some people, and can release pollen very early in the year.
Managing Tree Pollen Allergy
Regardless of whether you are allergic to grass pollen or to tree pollen, all the same tactics apply for managing your hay fever symptoms. Make sure you know the time of year that your trigger pollen is released into the air. Keep an eye on the pollen count and try to stay inside on the worst days. If you must go outside, keep the car windows closed and wear wraparound sunglasses. Of course, you can also talk to your doctor, pharmacist or allergy specialist about ways to manage the worst symptoms of your hay fever.
Finding what Works for you
Whether or not you are allergic to tree or to grass pollen is fairly unlikely to have an impact on the treatment you take to relieve your hay fever symptoms. But it can be useful to consider whether it’s tree pollen that’s to blame for your hay fever, if only to get a clearer picture of when during the year you’re most likely to have problems. Not only will you be able to make more educated decisions on when to take medication, but you might also be able to plan some key major events, like your wedding or a family holiday, at a time when the birch tree is not sending its pollen up into the air.
Tender lymph glands in your neck underyour chin are a sure sign of the body reacting to tree pollen. My glands have been tender since January but, thank goodness, are much less so now. I was on daily for antihistamines for five-six weeks in March/April, but off them now. What a relief....Till next year....
Gee - 5-May-20 @ 5:53 PM
Does anyone know if Hawthorn causes hayfever please? We have a lot of Hawthorn at the bottom of our garden and I'm really suffering at the moment with sore throat,mucus, sneezing, tiredness,headaches even earache. I'm currently taking antibiotics in case of sinus infection but I'm convinced its hayfever.
Mandy P - 1-May-20 @ 1:22 PM
Having not really suffered from any Hayfever symptoms since 1988, I can honestly say that I have never felt so rough as I have these last 6-7 weeks.So much so, I paid for a Covid swab test which has, thankfully, return negative.To recap, I have a few oaks,Sycamores, conifers and other trees within very close proximity to my property.I am feeling a general malaise, aching, headaches, congestion, warm eyes, coughing fits to clear my throat, post nasal drip and production of green phlegm in the mornings.My chest has felt sore and raw but not all of the time.I note the pollen count is high where we live and has been for many days.Speaking with the local health shop owner, she informed the pollen count is troubling more people this year as the pollution levels are down. We also have had a few windy days so not sure if that is distributing the pollen from the woods and other trees that adjourn the railway close to us. I am really hoping this clears soon as it’s really making me feel lousy and down.My partner gets this every year but she is at home most of the time where as I leave early morning and return mid evening.Does anyone know when this should start to clear or at least improve?
Paul - 26-Apr-20 @ 10:52 AM
Do conifer trees cause big hayfever allergies? Massive conifer in our front garden which we have watched spewing out pollen for weeks, coating cars. I have only had early hayfever for a couple of years, never before I moved to this house. Just wondering if conifer could be my culprit. No birch in our area.
Sian - 26-Apr-20 @ 8:47 AM
I developed tree pollen allergy about fifteen years ago in my mid thirties.I had desensitisation injections for 3 years at Southmead hospital in my late thirties, but it didn't really make any difference.My season runs from Feb-May, being worst in Apr, and I know it's silver birch that's the main culprit.I avoid taking antihistamines as much as I can due to the reported links to dementia, but have to relent in Apr, with generic Cetirizine Hydrochloride my favoured active ingredient (I found Loratadine made my skin feel itchy after a while).The worst part for me is the itchy eyes, and for that I've found Optrex Actimist the best treatment (you spray it onto closed eyelids, so no messing with trying to get drops into the eyes themselves). Other than that, staying inside as others have said and having a shower in the evening also helps.
Andrew - 24-Apr-20 @ 1:30 PM
I have been suffering from seasonal tree pollen hayfever for the past few years and in response to Katy, the timing of your discomfort is probably related to trees like Birch releasing most pollen in the afternoon. This year I felt awful around 10 April for a few days and think it was hayfever rather than anything else. I only go out before 11am and keep all windows closed after that until late night/early morning. Taking a shower and washing your hair makes a big difference. Change clothes when you get in and wash your face now and again. This year, Claritin’s Loratadine together with Vogel’s Pollinosan is working well, now it has built up in me. I am frustrated by the lack of information about timing of pollen release, especially given how many millions of people are affected. So many websites generalise and mix tree pollen with grass pollen. I have also bought an air purifier which I really think has made a difference.
Clare - 23-Apr-20 @ 7:30 PM
First year I have experienced hay fever.started feeling rough inMarch sore throat and uvlia, had a large rash on upper torso.blocked nose in morning
Axisboldaslove - 16-Apr-20 @ 10:40 PM
My hay fever is the worst it has ever been and I have been unable to go outside for over a week now or open a window. Just to get out of bed in the morning, my eyes need bathing as they're glued together, I take a steroid nose spray, my asthma inhalers, eye drops and the strongest prescription anti histamine tablet.The itchy eyes have got to be the worst symptom, there is no let up. I am praying for May to come so I they should wear off. As if things aren't bad enough right now. I did read that the pollen count is the highest in 70 years since records began.
Cat - 15-Apr-20 @ 11:06 PM
Hi, interesting reading your comments as I have experienced the same symptoms - which has been going on for 7-8 weeks.My missus had 48hrs of feeling extremely tired, breathless, sore ear and throat.She is convinced it’s the trees surrounding us and gets this every year find March.I popped out to the car today and was amazed at the green pollen film covering it.This was from the sycamore that is at the side of our property, we also have one at the front along with a large oak.Quite rightly, she pointed out that I am never usually at home during the day so I miss when the pollen is at its highest.As mentioned by someone in a previous post, one does not know if the symptoms are allergy, cold or the dreaded virus.I would have thought swollen glands, which I have had, could be a response to an allergy as it’s an indication the immune system is fighting something.Unfortunately for me, I am unable to take anti histamines so have to suffer whatever it is.The Avogel website is information on symptoms and when the seasons for the various pollens.Also details the worst tree culprits and Birch seems to be high on the list along with Plane (sycamore).
Paul - 14-Apr-20 @ 2:29 AM
My hayfever is the worst it has ever been and I’ve suffered for about 20 years, I’ve ended up on strong antihistamines prescribes by the doctor and am staying indoors but am still in pain with horrendous eyes, itchy ears and throat..... my eyes are stuck together in the morning and am showering as much as I can.
Becklink - 11-Apr-20 @ 6:46 PM
Started to feel unwell weeks ago with sore throat swollen glands headache sneezing and tiredness,breathlessness itchy eyes. And at 1 30 this morning I woke up with a coughing fit and brought up loads of mucus Although I suffer from hay fever and other allergies I have never felt this bad for so long.Then I found out that the tree pollen is the highest level since they started to record back in 1951. I Have trees all around meand in the previous years it hasn't affected me too muchI also read that people who have never had hay fever have started to be affected I thinks it's something we could do without at this present moment in time but if these symptoms that I have listed help someone to save the worry that's great
Noony - 11-Apr-20 @ 2:37 PM
Ruthie,like you I have swollen glands with sore throat, thick mucus no temperature no cough . we have a garden full of silver birchand I’ve been sitting out under them for a couple of days .Last nightfelt all phlegmy and glandular... panicked and isolated today ...but after a Piriton felt a bit better ... I’m going to iso for a few more days with the windows closed and take antihistamineand see what happens . confusing times. Anyone else get swollen glands with tree pollen?
Viv - 8-Apr-20 @ 9:37 PM
We’ve just had 14 days isolation with temps and wheezing nothing else. Had one day of feeling better then myself and 6 yr old son got dry eyes, sore throat in the larings, slightly sore ears and I became wheezy again ??
I hoped Hayfever and not continued Covid-19! But the one symptom with Hayfever I’m unsure about is swollen glands?Do any of also get swollen glands too?
Ruthy - 7-Apr-20 @ 7:50 AM
Hi Could anyone offer an explanation as to why my eyes are more itchy in late afternoon and early evening, I am allergic to tree pollen I think. Thank you
Kath - 1-Apr-20 @ 8:44 PM
I have been effected by tree pollen for years and so I know the signs. This year highlights the confusion for those who do not know about tree pollen and expect it to be something else. A summer cold is a normal excuse. This year it might be the virus!!
Andrew - 29-Mar-20 @ 8:28 PM
I forgot to add, I get these symptoms in the house too.
Apologies for the typing issues in my earlier post.I am typing this from an I phone.
Paul - 22-Mar-20 @ 9:14 PM
Hi all, I have enjoyed reading your comments. With interest.We have a very large oak near to the front of the property, a very large tree outside of, which looks to be a sycamore and some trees to the side of the. house, all of which are bare.In the garden we have pines.Could these be causing issues now?I keep getting warm eyes, having to clear my throat, stuffy congested nose and clear running when I eat or go outside.I also get post nasal drip and a sore throat from time to time.The dog even coughs, sneezes and has a runny nose.He gets this best part of theyear and the vet has said it’s probably an allergy.Just wondering and would appreciate your advice.Thanks
Paul - 22-Mar-20 @ 9:10 PM
My husband has a dry tickly cough and with the COVID 19 we are self isolating. I have post nasal drip, so constantly swallowing, a fullness in my head, a heavy chest and have had this in previous years and never considered it to be hayfever. Reading some of the comments I suddenly realise thats what it is. Today I have had all windows closed and it has helped but we went out this afternoon to walk the dog up a path by Hawthorne/May trees and my chest is tight, catarrh is back, tickly cough starting. The flowers are numerous and I have never seen them like this, I actually suddenly felt really unwell when we were out. Its all very strange, I am also peri menopausal and have experienced a lot of food allergies too.
Andrea - 21-Mar-20 @ 5:56 PM
I also suffer with tree pollen allergy. You need to modify your diet. Food and drink are a massive contributor to your body's histamine levels. Basically you need to lower the histamine level in your body to try and offset the histamine your body generates in response to the pollen. It will help. Research which foods you should avoid but basically things like alcohol, chocolate, preserved meats (sausages, bacon etc), cheeses. Also drink lots of 3 ginger tea! (ginger is a natural anti-histamine) Helps me.
Strontium - 16-Mar-20 @ 10:47 AM
pgm - I am in the same boat.Always suffered from hay fever, but usually just itchy eyes and the tiredness.Last year in March the tree pollen made me short of breath and flared up my asthma. I have had a tight chest for the past week or so and it feels exactly the same as last year so I am assuming it's the tree pollen again.I will be calling the doctor to see if I need to use the orange preventer inhaler again for a few weeks.I am only experiencing shortness of breath so am inclined to think it is the pollen.Keep safe. x
kmac - 15-Mar-20 @ 3:39 PM
I usually get tree pollen allergy between late March and end of May. This year it has started early with itchy throat and eyes and a tendency to cough. The dilemma this year is the corona virus epidemic which leads to the question - is it the virus or pollen allergy? I am considering self-isolating as a precaution for protection of others. Does anyone else face this dilemma?
Pgm - 13-Mar-20 @ 8:09 AM
My son now 13 suffered from really bad tree and grass pollen induced hayfever and also Asthma. He is now in the second year of self funded oral sublingual desensitization therapy for tree pollen and IT MAKES SUCH A DIFFERENCE. I can only recommend it to everyone. It is not funded for children in the UK but try if you can.
He has now no Asthma or Hayfever in early spring anymore. We started grass pollen desen. last year and it started to work already. Try to educate yourself and urge your GP to refer you to an allergy clinic. The effects are said to be lasting longer than you take the treatment.
Lilo - 23-Feb-20 @ 5:50 PM
Last year suggested with hay fever for first time. I sneeze a lot and get really itchy ears and sometimes itchy eyes. When it gets really bad also effects my breathing. Went to doctors and they said it wasn't hay fever as never heard of itchy ears with hay fever but couldn't say what it was. But as the pollen reduced, so did the symptoms. Last year started about March but has already started this year and it's only February. Do have a lovely big birch tree in the garden which I think it's probably the culprit.
Amy - 8-Feb-20 @ 9:44 AM
I get itchy and swollen eyelids every time I open a window facing a 20ft Hawthorne hedge. Extremely bad between June and September. Trouble is that window creates a breeze through the apartment. I am trying to get the estate management company to cut it down to no avail.
John - 3-Aug-19 @ 10:15 AM
I’ve suffered from stuffy nose and dreadful aches during the summer months, for years. After walking, being in the countryside, even in late summer, feel like i’ve been kicked by a horse, and general foggy malaise. Not sure what it is i’m allergic to, butit’s pretty grim.
Freddie - 7-Jul-19 @ 12:14 PM
I use natural nasal barriers and they have worked extremely well but I still feel I could do with another treatment. Is there anything you could recommend?
Mr.Max - 10-Jun-19 @ 8:49 PM
I suffer from silent migraines and have only just made a possible connection to birch tree pollen.I’m worst from end Mar to end May with weekly migraines.Where I work is surrounded by birch trees ??
Cazhug - 5-Jun-19 @ 7:57 AM
I find the May makes me extremely Ill. Its flowers are so pungent they stink. It's a beautiful tree especially when it's in full blossom but there's no way of getting away from it on the Isle of Man, its everywhere. My worst nightmare for hayfever. Anyone else have a reaction to this tree. The Hawthorne.
Gayegaye - 23-May-19 @ 5:46 PM
I get extremely itchy eyes from mid January to April. No other symptoms . This has been going on for years and no one seems able to help
rathers - 14-Feb-19 @ 7:15 AM
AngieB - Your Question:
I’ve only just made the link between my symptoms and a possible pollen allergy. I’ve been having itchy skin since March with intermittent watery eyes, runny nose etc. I read your article about the cross reaction with certain foods and as I eat apples or bananas daily and regularly eat veg like carrots and parsnips I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a birch pollen. Would the itchy face and scalp relate to this?
We really don't know, there are so many different things involved with allergies. The easiest thing to do would be to ask your doctor if you can be referred for further testing.