A List of the Worst Trees for Allergies

Trees that rely on the wind for pollination are the worst for allergy sufferers

Pollen allergies (also called hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis) can put a damper on a beautiful spring day. If you have allergies, the change of seasons may usher in congestion, itchy and watery eyes, and sinus pressure.

While grass is the most common cause of hay fever, many people are also allergic to tree pollen. From March to May, trees produce powdery pollen. When it blows around, that pollen can cause allergy symptoms to rev up. Some trees produce worse allergens than others.

Here is a list of trees that are most likely to contribute to your seasonal allergy symptoms.

A close up of a branch of a willow tree releasing pollen.

Ashley Cooper / Getty Images

What Is Tree Pollen?

Tree pollen is a powdery substance that trees use to fertilize themselves and other trees. Plants have both female and male reproductive systems. Pollen contains the male reproductive cells (or gametes). For the tree to be able to reproduce by making fruit or seeds, the pollen needs to come into contact with female tree systems.

In some plants, the connection is made by pollinators—for example, flowers and bees. Other plants, like some trees, rely on the wind to be pollinated.

During the spring, many trees release a large amount of pollen. The wind blows the pollen through the air and eventually to other trees of the same species.

If the pollen lands in your eyes, nose, or respiratory system, it can also cause hay fever. 

The Worst Trees for Allergies

While you might think that flowering trees are the worst allergy culprits, most of the trees that are likely to cause allergies do not have noticeable flowers. That's why they rely on the wind for pollination and therefore need to release a lot of pollen into the air.

The worst trees for allergies are birch, cedar, and oak.

Other trees that can cause seasonal allergies are:

  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Aspen
  • Beech
  • Boxelder
  • Cottonwood
  • Elm
  • Hickory
  • Mountain elder
  • Mulberry
  • Olive
  • Pecan
  • Poplar
  • Willow

Diagnosis and Treatment of Tree Pollen Allergies

Trees often release pollen before other plants do. If you experience allergy symptoms early in the spring, you might have a tree pollen allergy. The symptoms of tree pollen allergies include:

  • Sneezing; runny or stuffy nose
  • Red, watery, and puffy eyes
  • Itchy nose, ears, eyes, and mouth

To get a definitive diagnosis of tree pollen allergies, you’ll need to see a doctor. They can make a diagnosis through allergy testing.

Potential tests that doctors can use to determine your allergies include:

  • Skin prick test: For this test, a healthcare provider places a small amount of tree pollen on your skin, then pricks or scratches the skin through the pollen. If redness, itching, or swelling develops at the site within 20 minutes, you’re likely allergic to tree pollen. The severity of your reaction indicates the severity of your allergy. 
  • Specific IgE blood test, Radioallergosorbetnt (RAST) or ImmunoCap: For this test, you'll need to give a blood sample. In the lab, a small amount of tree pollen is added to your blood, then a lab technician measures the number of allergy antibodies (IgE) your blood produces to fight the allergen. 

Managing Tree Pollen Allergies and Reducing Exposure

If you know you are allergic to tree pollen, start taking allergy medication in the weeks leading up to the time your allergies usually start. Getting ahead of your reaction will help you manage your hay fever symptoms.

During the spring, you can also take steps to limit your exposure to pollen. For example:

  • Keep your home's windows closed and use an air filter.
  • Limit your time outside and stay away from pets that are frequently outside.
  • Shower daily before bed to remove any pollen from your hair and skin.
  • Wash your bedding weekly in hot water and dry clothes inside rather than on an outdoor clothesline.
  • Check the pollen count. Pollen counts are typically highest in the morning and again at night. Avoid spending long periods of time outdoors when the pollen count is high.

Although there are many over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications available, it's still a good idea to talk to your doctor about your allergy symptoms. They can let you know which treatment will be the most helpful.

Summary

Tree allergies are a common cause of hay fever symptoms, especially in the early spring. Birch, cedar, and oak trees are the most likely to cause hay fever, but other trees that rely on the wind to spread their pollen around can also contribute.

A Word From Verywell

Pollen allergies are very common. While they might not seem like a serious medical condition, the symptoms can be uncomfortable and interfere with quality of life. Uncontrolled allergy symptoms could lead to sinus infections, ear infections, or even asthma. In children, they can interfere with school performance and grades. In adults, allergy symptoms can cause people to miss work and interfere with other aspects of their day-to-day lives and responsibilities.

While you can get some OTC treatments for allergies at your local pharmacy, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor about your allergies. They can recommend the best treatment and give you advice on how to best manage your allergy symptoms.

One step that you can take is planning ahead and being proactive about your allergies by limiting your exposure to pollen.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if tree pollen allergies are affecting you?

If you experience symptoms like a stuffy nose, watery eyes, and sneezing early in the spring, you may have tree pollen allergies. You might notice that these symptoms are worse on days with a higher pollen count. 

How long do tree pollen allergies last?

Tree pollen allergies can last throughout the pollen season, which peaks in the spring. However, people with severe tree pollen allergies can also experience symptoms from eating foods that have been exposed to pollen, like apples and other fruits.

If your allergies are persistent, talk to your doctor about ways you can manage your symptoms more effectively.

What time of day are tree pollen allergies the worst?

Pollen counts are highest in the morning, peak about midday, and then gradually fall. The lowest pollen counts are usually in the late afternoon to early evening.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Urban Forestry Tree Service. How trees reproduce. Updated March 2, 2020.

  2. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Tree pollen: spring’s first allergy offender. Updated February 26, 2018.

  3. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Pollen allergy. Updated October 2015.