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Meet Your Seasonal Contenders for Springtime Allergies

That fresh spring breeze that we look forward to at this time of year is the culprit for spreading tree pollen and aggravating your symptoms. Springtime spells trouble for people allergic to tree pollen and the symptoms usually start as soon as the snow melts.

Seasonal allergies mean different things to different people, depending on who you’re talking to. But in the springtime, it’s all about the budding trees. In Canada, there is an abundance of wind-pollinated trees and the ones that cause the severest allergy symptoms include:

  • Birch

  • Elm

  • Maple

  • Oak

  • Poplar

When exactly these trees will spring into action all depends on your neighbourhood. Someone who suffers from tree pollen allergies living in Vancouver will experience symptoms much earlier in the year than someone who resides in Toronto or Yellowknife. But one thing you can be sure of, trees are early risers and like to shed their pollen as soon as the sun is up and out of bed. They can start as early as 5 a.m. and last all morning.

If you can’t avoid going out at this time of day, just make sure to cover up. Wear a hat and sunglasses and maybe a dab of petroleum jelly around your nostrils to trap any unwanted intruders.

If you’re still suffering, consider wearing a pollen mask. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends the N95 particulate pollen mask (CDC NIOSH rated).

Let’s take a closer look at the different areas of Canada and when you can expect allergies to strike.

West Coast

The West Coast of British Columbia is a cornucopia of lush greenery and a boastful tree population. These leafy beauties trigger more allergy attacks that any other seasonal allergen in the region. The biggest offender is the red alder that grows in large numbers all along the west coast of BC. The poplar and the Garry Oak tree are close runners-up to the red alder, but it takes the prize for spreading the most pollen.

Worst Pollinating Pest on the West Coast

  • Prime suspect: Red Alder

  • Onset of Pollination: Mid-Feb to Late March

  • Pollen Period: 3 weeks

  • Pollen Type: Catkins

The Prairies

It’s probably no surprise, especially for those who live in The Prairies, that the paper birch is the biggest offender in this region. It is, after all, the provincial tree of Saskatchewan. The paper birch is the first one out of the box in spring, taking a strong lead in front of willow, poplar, ash, elm, oak, and curiously, the Russian olive tree.

Worst Pollinating Pest in The Prairies

  • Prime suspect: Paper Birch

  • Onset of Pollination: Late April to Early May

  • Pollen Period: End of June

  • Pollen Type: Catkins

Southern Ontario, Quebec and Northeastern US

Covering a large area, the central-east region of Canada is home to hundreds of pollinating pests, among them birch, elm, maple, oak, and poplar. If you live in the Ottawa Valley, don’t be surprised if your allergies are the worse you’ve ever experienced. According to Allergist Dr Mortimer Katz, this region is the “allergy capital of the world!

Although Toronto is known as the ragweed region in Canada, it too has its own list of troublesome trees that aggravate springtime allergies. Oak trees are the biggest offender in this region, which would explain places like Oakville and the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Aerobiology Research Laboratories in Nepean, Ontario, blames the oak for its generous donation to seasonal allergies during springtime. They told CBC News that "oaks shed copious amounts of pollen, more than all other plants."

Worst Pollinating Pest in the Central-East Region

  • Prime suspect: Oak

  • Onset of Pollination: Mid-March to Early April

  • Pollen Period: June

  • Pollen Type: Catkins

The Maritimes

On the Atlantic Coast, allergy season is a whole different story. The troublesome trees in this region are poplar, maple, oak, and birch. But unlike the rest of Canada, they pollinate from late winter to early spring. The reason for this is that the warm-up and spring thaw is a slow and lengthy process in this area. Allergy symptoms may not flare up until as late as May.

According to the Director of the Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanical Garden, Dr. Wilf Nicholls, "The longer it’s frosty and cold, the slower those catkins will emerge and release pollen."

Fortunately, heavy rains and winds off the East Coast and an abundance of evergreen trees help Atlantic Canada in their efforts to dampen airborne pollen from getting up their nose.

Worst Pollinating Pest in Atlantic Canada

  • Prime suspect: Oak

  • Onset of Pollination: March to May

  • Pollen Period: Late June

  • Pollen Type: Catkins

Get The Pollen Facts Before They Get Up Your Nose!

As you can see, different trees bloom at different times of year depending on your region. So knowing which trees trigger your allergies is half the battle to knowing when to treat them. More and more allergy specialists are recommending taking naturally sourced allergy relief prior to allergy season. It’s this kind of proactive approach that helps to manage allergy symptoms before they take hold.

So take charge, know your allergy triggers, and start taking your naturally sourced allergy medication before allergy season begins. It’s the most effective way to manage your allergies.

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