Many of us living in the central Texas area know that Spring has arrived when we see that thin yellow sheet of pollen draped over our cars and those thick, brown clumps of pollen tassels lining sidewalks, roads, and gutters. Every Spring, oak trees are the culprit, and from late February to as far as mid June, millions of people across the states suffer from allergy symptoms as a result of this widespread tree blooming as the weather gets warmer. If you or someone you know suffer from oak pollen allergies, know that oak allergy symptoms are treatable and preventable. Continue reading below to learn more about common oak allergy symptoms, oak allergy causes, and diagnosis and treatment of oak allergies and oak allergy symptoms. In addition, check out our ‘FAQ’ about oak tree allergies to learn more.
Symptoms of Oak Tree Allergy
Common symptoms of oak tree allergies are similar to those of other pollen allergies. If you are allergic to oak pollen, you may experience the following symptoms:
- stuffy, runny, and/or itchy nose
- sore and/or itchy throat
- coughing or wheezing
- red, watery, and/or itchy eyes
- sinus pain, pressure, and/or congestion
- headaches and/or dizziness
Causes of Oak Tree Allergy
Like any pollen allergy, an allergy to oak occurs when your body’s immune system responds aggressively when coming into contact with oak pollen. Oak pollen itself is a harmless substance, but because the body mistakes it for something dangerous like a virus or bacteria, your body creates an inflammation response toward it. This inflammatory response is what ultimately causes the allergy symptoms listed above. There are many different types of oak trees that grow widely across the entire country, so oak allergies are not specific to those living in the Texas area. In central Texas, oak season can start as early as late February and last up to mid June. Because oak season can last so long, it is imperative that those who suspect they have an oak allergy undergo testing and treatment of their allergies to improve their quality of life.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Oak Tree Allergy
When you see your allergy specialist for diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment, they will first discuss your medical history and progression of symptoms. They may ask you questions about when your allergies first started, how long you have been living in the area, and what your symptoms are like. After a thorough discussion of your allergies, your allergist will then perform a skin prick test to idenfity an extensive list of the allergens you are allergic to. This 20-minute procedure involves using plastic skin testing applicators to apply a specific amount of the diluted allergen onto your back, then waiting 15 minutes to observe for an allergic reaction. These reactions are localized and appear as small, raised, red welts (bumps) at the application site. Common treatments for oak pollen allergies include medication usage and allergy therapy. For short-term relief of allergy symptoms, the following medications are commonly used. Please discuss with your allergist first about which medication(s) may be right for you:
- H1 antihistamines (such as Allegra, Zyrtec, Claritin, or Xyzal)
- H2 antihistamines (such as Pepcid or Zantac)
- Nasal sprays (such as Flonase or Nasacort)
- Leukotriene inhibitors (a prescription medication)
For long-term improvement of oak pollen allergies and less medication use over time, many people opt to undergo allergy immunotherapy. Allergy immunotherapy is a process in which a slowly increasing amount of allergen is introduced to the body’s immune system so that long-term resistance to the allergen is developed. This treatment can last throughout the duration of the treatment and up to 15 years after completing it. Allergy immunotherapy comes in three forms:
- Shots/injections (subcutaneous allergy immunotherapy, or SCIT)
- Under the tongue drops (a form of sublingual allergy immunotherapy, or SLIT)
- Tablets that dissolve under the tongue (a form of SLIT)
Talk to your allergy specialist about whether you may be a candidate for allergy immunotherapy and to discuss which options may be the best fit for you.
Ways to limit exposure to oak pollen during oak season and minimize allergic symptoms include the following:
- Keep doors and windows shut when the pollen count is high
- Change your air filters in your car and house often
- Change your clothes and wash your hands after spending time outdoors
- Vacuum rugs and mop hard floors at least once a week
- Bathe pets regularly, regardless of if they live indoors
Additionally, you may experience symptoms after eating specific foods that contain similar proteins to those found in oak pollen. This is known as oral allergy syndrome and differs from a true food allergy. Some common foods that are involved in oral allergy syndrome for oak tree include but are not limited to:
What are the symptoms of oak allergy?
- Exactly what symptoms an individual experiences will vary from person to person, but common symptoms of an oak allergy include itchy nose, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, sinus pressure, and headaches.
What regions are most affected by oak allergy?
- Oak is one of the largest tree genus containing the greatest number of species in the United States and are considered native to every state in the country except for Idaho, Hawaii, and Alaska.
How do I treat my oak allergy?
- While allergy symptoms induced by an allergy to oak pollen can be treated by over the counter medications and prevented by minimizing exposure, the most long-lasting treatment for an oak pollen allergy is to undergo allergy immunotherapy.
- For most people, starting your allergy medications as recommended by your allergy specialist at least two weeks before your symptoms typically become severe can help with symptom management. However, it is imperative that you speak to an allergist about your oak allergies if they are moderate to severe, especially when seeking treatment methods.
When is oak allergy’s peak season?
- Oak trees can start blooming as early as late February and stop blooming as late as mid June. Typically, the peak at which oak trees bloom occurs in mid-April.
How can I prevent symptoms during oak season?
- Limit exposure to oak pollen during oak season by staying indoors as much as possible. Oak pollen can stick to your clothes, hair, and skin, so showering after you have been outdoors and/or prior to bedtime can help minimize symptoms. It also easily clings to pet hair, so bathing pets regularly even if they are indoor pets can help minimize exposure. In addition, it is important to clean your home and car regularly to limit pollen exposure.
Next stepsIf you are interested in further discussion about your specific needs, Dr. Reshamwala is happy to see you and answer any questions you may have. Please call 512-382-1933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment today! Book an appointment
Written by: Dr. Neha Reshamwala
NPI number: 1780874578
Page last reviewed: 03/20/21