Allergic Rhinitis – Could the Cause Be Tree Pollens?

At this time of year I see many children and adults with classic symptoms associated with Allergic Rhinitis or ”Hay Fever”. Symptoms such as congested sinuses and ears, constantly runny nose, asthma, wheeze or difficulty breathing, itchy eyes, and pollen food syndrome or oral allergy syndrome may all be triggered by Tree Pollen.  Tree pollen occurs from late March to mid-May ( followed by grass pollen and weed pollen ). Trees that flower and produce pollen in Spring in the UK are Birch, Hazel, Alder, Popular, Ash and Oak. With the Silver Birch being responsible for 25% of the population being affected. In Europe, the prevalence of birch pollen sensitisation is estimated to be around 8-16%, and of those, approximately 70% cross react with food sources (pollen food syndrome). Foods include : almond, apple, apricot, carrot, celery, cherry, hazelnut, kiwi, nectarine, peanut, peach, pear, plum, potato, soya and walnut. Birch trees produce pollen via yellow catkins that hang down from the branches, like other tree pollens, the pollen grains are incredibly small and fine. Tree pollen can be carried long distances by the wind or even a light breeze, so direct contact may not be necessary to experience symptoms. The weather plays a significant role in the production, distribution and dispersion of pollen. The amount of daylight, or the “photoperiod”, is also crucial to pollen production because of photosynthesis. If the weather is cloudy then plants and trees will produce less pollen.

Tips from Allergy UK website. “Check pollen forecasts daily and stay indoors wherever possible when the tree pollen count is high. Hay fever symptoms usually appear when the pollen count exceeds 50. Rain washes pollen from the air so counts should be lower on cooler, wet days. Keep car windows closed and the air intake on ‘recirculate’ when driving. Keep windows closed when indoors. Avoid drying clothes/ linen outside when pollen counts are high. On high pollen days, shower and wash your hair and change your clothing, especially before going to bed. Wipe pets’ coats with a damp cloth to remove pollens when they have been outside. Wear a mask, wraparound sunglasses and a hat with a large peak or brim when outdoors to keep pollen allergens out of your eyes, face and hair. Wearing a face mask has been shown to reduce symptoms of hay fever, by reducing the amount of pollen we inhale, as well as creating a warm humid environment to breathe in which reduces the reactivity of the nose”.

Some individuals especially children can find symptoms extremely distressing and especially so when sleep is affected. Pharmacists can help with advice and over the counter medications for adults and children such as anti-histamines. There are homoeopathic and herbal remedies that may be beneficial. We are fortunate in Dorset to have a local Homoeopathic Pharmacy in West Stafford, Galen Homoeopathic, helpful with advice and supply of specific pollen remedies. Locally we also have a Medical Herbalist, Eleanor Gallia (MNIMH) Nether Cerne Herbs. Self-help to support the immune system might include increasing the intake of Vitamin C, Zinc and Selenium. You can do this by either eating foods rich in these vitamins and minerals or by using supplements from your local health food shop. You might try an elimination diet to see if foods are contributing to your symptoms. My experience gained over many years has led me to conclude that the most common symptom triggers are the proteins found in animal based dairy products, pork products and chocolate. It is easy to trial to see if this approach is helpful, simply eliminate the foods ( replace with plant products to avoid nutritional deficiencies ) for a few weeks and then if feeling better re-introduce one at a time. If the symptoms re-appear you have found your trigger. Elimination diets are recognised as having value if used in this way. Keeping a food diary can also be useful and is recommended as being beneficial in the identification of food triggers. Nutritional Therapy is not confined to addressing the diet alone, I work holistically, taking into account a person’s individual lifestyle. When under stress the body produces high levels of adrenalin/cortisol these natural chemical hormones can trigger the auto-immune system to produce a causal chain of symptoms. Clinical Reflexology is thought effective in treating these symptoms by calming and re-balancing the sympathetic and para-sympathetic systems of the autonomic nervous system to support the auto-immune system. It has also been found beneficial in encouraging drainage of the lymphatic system so reducing congestion. If you think I might be of help please get in touch.