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Allergy UK launches its top 10 recommendations for tree planting in National Tree Week

Tips to help reduce risk of exposure to allergic pollen for people living with pollen and respiratory allergy

Allergy UK, the leading national charity for people living with allergic disease, has released 10 top considerations for tree planting in support of this year’s National Tree Week (from 23 to 29 November) and the “be a #TreeChampion” initiative.

The charity is asking for consideration of people living with allergy when selecting tree species for mass planting, especially in urban areas, as some of the commonly chosen species release high levels of allergenic pollen.  This can have a serious effect on adults and children, in both developing allergies and on those living with existing pollen allergy. The top ten recommendations encourage the planting of low pollen trees, particularly in towns and cities and in areas accessed by families and children such as around schools. Some cities around the world have adopted preventative solutions to minimise exposure to allergenic pollen, including Aarhus in Denmark where Birch species are no longer planted in public spaces and around highways and Cologne in Germany where an online website tool to aid tree species selection includes allergenicity in the criteria.

The UK has the third highest rate of allergic rhinitis and the highest rate of asthma in the world. NHS Allergy clinics across the UK spend thousands of pounds  every year desensitising patients with allergies to tree and grass pollens. Children are particularly vulnerable. Allergies trigger asthma exacerbations in up to 90% of children with asthma.

Amena Warner, Head of Clinical Services says “Some tree species are more allergenic than others and have the potential to cause allergy, triggering symptoms of hay fever and asthma.  The Birch tree, in particular, is one of the most allergenic trees in the UK and is often the chosen tree for mass planting due to its aesthetic, affordability and light leaf fall”.

“The impact of allergy on daily life can be significant. Allergenic tree pollen species such as Birch can trigger a type of food allergy called Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS) where the allergen in a food is very similar to the pollen allergen, giving symptoms of itchy mouth and throat.”

Allergy UK supports National Tree Week’s “be a #TreeChampion” initiative, encouraging the planting of low pollen trees with the following ten tips:

  1. Alder (Alnus spp), Birch (Betula spp) and Hazel (Corylus spp) produce the most allergenic tree pollen in the UK. Avoid planting these
  2. Care should be taken when planting trees in close proximity to areas where people live, work or walk to school
  3. Choose species with low-to-moderate pollen production
  4. Avoid mass planting the same species of tree close together as this can create local pollen sources and screens, and a high local pollen count as air currents cannot disperse the pollen effectively
  5. The pollen produced by flowering trees (entomophilous pollen) is heavier and stickier so less likely to become airborne
  6. Seek tree expert advice when selecting species for each green area, preferably from someone with allergy knowledge
  7. Protect people from allergenic trees by careful tree selection
  8. Planting Birch, Alder and Hazel can be appropriate in larger open spaces and natural areas where the pollen can be rapidly dispersed
  9. Flowering trees are often a good choice for urban landscapes
  10. Prioritise low pollen environments in areas accessed by families and children

For further information on pollen allergy and asthma, visit allergyuk.org.  

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