Allergies in New England


Allergies to tree pollen begin later in New England than in most other areas, but when it begins, it comes on fast, according to allergists familiar with this area.

“When the tree season comes on, patients go from feeling normal to just being miserable,” said Dr. Don McNeil, who specializes in allergy and immunology. 

The spring allergy season is short—just six to eight weeks—but it can make allergy sufferers highly uncomfortable.

McNeil says this is heightened by the fact that many people with pollen allergies also have mold allergies.

The moist, warm weather that marks spring also encourages mold growth, which means mold spores are on the rise at the same time as tree pollen.

The tree pollen that causes related spring allergies can only arise from trees that pollinate: deciduous trees. These are the oaks, hickories, sycamores, cottonwoods, birches and other hardwoods that are prevalent in the Northeast.

Although that makes spring allergies worse in New England, McNeil said moving to another region rarely brings longterm relief.

“If you are prone to having allergies, you may move to a new area and be free of your symptoms initially,” he said. “After a year or two, you become sensitized to the allergens in the new place.”

The actual cause of sniffling, sneezing, wheezing and worse are the tiny bits of pollen from tree buds that are floating about in the air.

Pollen rises in the early morning, so McNeil advises patients to keep their windows closed overnight.

“Some patients benefit from bathing before bed to remove any pollen that may have attached to their skin or hair during the day,” McNeil said.

McNeil says it is important for people suffering from allergies to find a local allergist who is board certified in allergy and immunology.

“Avoid people who are practicing allergy but don’t specialize in it,” said McNeil. Some practitioners profit from placing patients on a repeating regimen of allergy shots, he said.

While shots are often effective for safely building up a tolerance to allergens, patients should be evaluated regularly and moved to a maintenance program when the effective dose has been reached, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

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