Birch Pollen Allergy

birch tree

Birch trees are common trees found in many places around the world. They have a unique bark that is thin and white, and they produce small, lightweight things called catkins. These catkins have a powdery substance called birch tree pollen that can cause allergies in many people. In the spring, when the trees are blooming, the pollen can be carried in the wind and cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to it. It's estimated that over 100 million people worldwide are affected by this allergy. While birch trees are beautiful and beneficial for the environment, they can also cause discomfort for people who are allergic to their pollen.

When is the Birch Pollen Allergy Season?

This is a time of the year when birch trees release a kind of powder called pollen, which can be carried by the wind and cause allergies in some people. Usually, this season happens from January to April, with the worst part being in early spring. However, it can change depending on where you live and the weather conditions in your area. Even if you don't have birch trees near your home, the pollen can still reach you through the air.

What Causes Birch Pollen Allergy?

Birch pollen allergy is a type of allergy caused by our immune system when it overreacts to pollen grains. When people who are allergic to birch pollen breathe in these tiny particles, their immune system mistakes them for harmful things and tries to fight them off, which causes an allergic reaction.

What are the Symptoms of Birch Pollen Allergy?

The symptoms of birch pollen allergy are similar to those of other pollen allergies and may include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Itchy throat or ears
  • Wheezing or coughing

In some cases, birch pollen allergy can lead to more severe reactions, such as asthma attacks in asthma sufferers.

Cross-Reactivity with Foods

People who have a birch pollen allergy might experience Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) when they eat certain raw fruits, nuts, and vegetables. OAS occurs because the immune system mistakes the proteins in these foods for the proteins in birch pollen, causing an allergic reaction. Some of the most common foods that can trigger OAS in people with birch pollen allergy include apples, almonds, carrots, celery, cherries, kiwis, peaches, pears, and plums. However, cooking or baking these foods can often get rid of the proteins that cause the reaction, making them safe to eat for those with OAS.

How to Prevent Exposure to Birch Pollen

Preventing exposure to birch pollen is key. It includes the following: 

  • Monitoring daily pollen counts
  • Keeping windows closed and using certified air filters
  • Avoiding outdoor activities during peak pollen times
  • Changing clothes and showering after being outdoors
  • Using saline eye drops or nasal sprays to flush out pollen
  • Wearing face masks and sunglasses outdoors during high pollen periods

Treatment

If you have an allergy to birch pollen, there are a few ways to find out for sure. Your doctor might do a skin test or blood test. If you do have an allergy, there are different kinds of medicine you can take to help you feel better, like pills or sprays. It's a good idea to start taking this medicine a week or two before the time of year when the pollen is in the air. If you want long-term relief, you might try something called allergen immunotherapy. This is where you get shots or take tablets that help your body get used to the allergen over time.