While pine tree allergy is relatively uncommon, there are two main allergens of concern that come from pine trees: pine nuts and pine pollen. Pine nuts (pignoli) are the edible seeds of certain species of pine trees, and are used in a variety of foods, including Italian pesto. Pine nut consumption has increased due to its use in the Mediterranean Diet. Pine pollen is produced when the trees reproduce in the springtime. It is possible for pollen to travel very long distances in the air.
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Pine pollen allergies are similar to other pollen allergies, and many people with pine pollen allergy are also allergic to grass pollen. Pine nut allergies are similar to other tree nut allergies, and can cause mild, moderate, and severe allergic responses including anaphylaxis. Cross-reactivity has been reported between pine nuts and peanuts and between pine nuts and pine pollen.
If you suspect you’re suffering from a pine tree allergy, talk to your allergist, who can evaluate your symptoms and identify the source of your illness.
Pine tree allergies and Christmas tree allergies are actually separate things. Pine tree allergy would give someone a problem in the springtime. The part of the tree that bothers you is the pollen, and pollen comes in the spring. When we get to Christmas time, the tree pollens are all gone. The things that are on the Christmas trees that bother people are the different types of pollen. The weed pollens actually come in the fall.
Allergist Allen Meadows, MD
Symptoms of pine pollen allergies are much like “hay fever” and typically include:
- Itchy tearing red eyes
- Bags under the eyes
- Runny nose with or without sneezing and congestion
In some cases pollen may aggravate asthma.
Pine nut allergies are much like other tree nut allergies in that they can cause anaphylactic reactions. Symptoms may vary from mild to severe and include:
- Tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the tongue, throat, nose and lips
- Hives or rash
- Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and/or vomiting
- Dizziness and fainting or loss of consciousness
- Shock and heart failure
If you have an anaphylactic reaction, even if it is mild, treat it because it wont go away. Symptoms include those listed above and:
- Itchy throat
- Abdominal discomfort
You should always visit an allergist if you suspect you are allergic to something. Allergists will take a detailed history of your reactions to pine nuts or pine pollen, and then may administer tests and recommend appropriate treatment.
The most common method of testing for allergy to pine is to perform a skin prick test. A very small amount of pine pollen or pine nut is placed on the skin, and then the skin is lightly pricked so that a tiny amount goes into the skin. After a period of time the area is examined for redness or other changes that would indicate an allergic sensitivity.
In some cases, blood tests may be conducted to test for reactions to pine. A small amount of blood is taken and tested in the laboratory to see if the antibodies in it respond to the allergen.
In rare cases, pine nut food allergies can be “challenged”, where a small amount of food is given under an allergists supervision to observe for a reaction. Due to the risk of anaphylaxis, food challenges should never be attempted on your own but always done in your allergists office.
Management and Treatment
Pine Nut Allergy Treatment
Any time you suspect a severe allergic reaction, you should seek immediate emergency care. For longer term management, consulting an allergist is important as they can help you recognize the symptoms of mild, moderate, and severe reactions, and give the most appropriate treatment.
Food allergies, including allergies to pine nuts, are best treated by completely avoiding the food. To accomplish this it may be necessary to learn how to read food labels, deal with the potential dangers of restaurants, and be aware of other potential exposure.
The most effective treatment for serious allergic food reactions is epinephrine injection. Epinephrine self-administration devices are the first line of defense against anaphylaxis. Severe reactions can occur even in people who have only had relatively mild reactions in the past. Talk to your allergist about the suitability of carrying an epinephrine injector if you, or your child, have a known allergy to pine nuts. If you have been prescribed an epinephrine injector, use it at the first sign of symptoms and then go to the nearest emergency room.
Pine Pollen Allergy Treatment
Pollen allergies can be treated with medication to control the symptoms. Other types of pollen allergies have been treated with immunotherapy, and pine pollen allergies may eventually be treated this way.
While pollen easily travels in the air, some strategies to avoid it can help . Pollen levels are typically highest in the morning (between 5 and 10 am), and when the air is dry, so postponing outdoor activities until the afternoon, or going out after heavy rain, can help. Keeping windows closed to keep pollen out will also help, and avoiding drying clothes on hanging lines will keep them from collecting pollen.
This page was reviewed for accuracy 4/23/2018.