Hay Fever is seasonal allergic rhinitis caused by pollen. It is significantly more common in women than in men, due to differences in men's and women's immune systems related to making pregnancy possible. This page is designed to give Woodland-specific guidance about alleviating hay fever.
See a Doctor
Allergy tests can help you determine some of the plants you're allergic to. You'll only be tested for a selection of the most common allergy-inducing plants that grow in our area, but it's likely that you'll also be allergic to other plants in the same genus (and often even the same entire plant family) as the ones that your allergy tests show you're allergic to.
Many over-the-counter antihistamines can help relieve the symptoms of hay fever. However, the only treatment that can actually make you less allergic is allergy shots. These are tiny amounts of allergens administered in gradually increasing doses twice a week for the first month or two, then once a week for the next month or two, with the speed of the dosage increase adjusted according to how well you tolerate each new shot. Once you reach your maintenance-level dose, shots are reduced to once a month and typically continued for about five years. About 90% of people who complete this regimen end up significantly less allergic to the allergens they've been treated for.
Avoid Wind-Pollinated Plants
Plants that rely heavily on insect pollinators have evolved pretty flowers to catch the eye of the insects that pollinate them. Plants that are mostly wind-pollinated rely instead on producing a huge volume of pollen. So, pretty flowers generally correlate with a lower volume of pollen and a lower incidence of hay fever. Plants with barely noticeable flowers, such as grasses, oak trees, maple trees, and palm trees, have to be wind-pollinated because they don't have the right look to attract pollinating insects. Plants known for their gorgeous flowers, such as Ceanothus, lupines, magnolia trees, sunflowers, and toyon, are primarily insect-pollinated, since they wouldn't put so much of their energy into making spectacular flowers if they weren't getting a return on their investment.
Avoid Male Plants
Pollen is produced by male flowers. Some plant species have both male and female flowers on the same plant, or even both male and female parts in a single flower. But many plant species have separate male and female plants. (There are also some other gender configurations, such as those of fig trees. The two genders of fig trees are female and androgynous.)
Cities, including the City of Woodland, tend to like to plant all male trees for the sake of avoiding unwanted seedlings. Nurseries and garden centers also primarily sell all male trees, with the idea that their customers would prefer to avoid unwanted seedlings.
However, the result of all this is that cities tend to end up with far, far, far more male plants than would ever be found in nature. And that means far, far, far more pollen and hay fever than people would ever suffer in a wilderness environment. And all this hay fever does long-term damage to sufferers' lungs, often causing asthma. Cities are actively harming their residents' health, especially their women residents' health, by favoring male street trees over female street trees.
If cities planted female trees as exclusively as they plant male trees, they wouldn't get many unwanted seedlings anyway - because you don't get seedlings from female trees if there aren't any male trees around.
The plants in or very near your own yard are typically the ones causing the majority of your hay fever, so consider replacing your male trees with female trees. Or just change the sex of your existing trees! Grafting a female branch onto a male tree can very often convert the entire tree to being female. You can pay a professional arborist to do this for you. If you can find a female tree of the same species to cut a branch from, you may even be able to do it yourself.
Ash trees, some bay laurel trees, some cottonwood trees, coyote brush, ginkgo trees, some locust trees, some maple trees, mulberry trees, some palm trees, some pine trees, pistache trees, some sheoak trees, tupelo trees, and willow trees are examples of plant species that can have all male flowers. The female versions of many of these plants might be delightful to have near your house. But the male versions are vastly more likely to be planted there, and they may be doing serious harm to your lungs.
Avoid Certain Plant Species
Certain plant species produce more pollen, and more allergenic pollen, than other plant species. This doesn't mean that you personally will be allergic to every highly allergenic plant species. However, frequent exposure to commonly allergenic substances increases the likelihood that you may become allergic to them eventually, so avoiding them before you become allergic to them might help you avoid ever becoming allergic to them. Also, allergy tests don't check for allergies to every possible plant species, so knowing what is most likely to cause allergies can help you figure out what is causing your allergies. The chart below shows how various species generally rank on the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale (OPALS).
Be an Activist
In many parts of Woodland, the City of Woodland has planted street trees adjacent to people's houses. What are you supposed to do if your city government is using your tax money to plant trees that are making you chronically ill and causing permanent injury to your lungs? Call the city and complain. Tell them exactly which street trees are causing the problem, and tell them exactly how upset you are about it. If enough hay fever sufferers complain, city planners will eventually start taking hay fever sufferers' health into account when they choose street trees.