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Pollen source - Chinese elm?

Original post made by Hayfevered, College Terrace, on Sep 15, 2010

For the first time in over ten years I got severe hayfever symptoms this past weekend in Palo Alto. The symptoms tend to improve in air conditioned buildings and when I wear a face mask, so I'm pretty sure it's hayfever. The symptoms also improve when I'm in Menlo Park or Mountain View. I checked the pollen count info online, and it appears that the only significant source of pollen in the air for the last few days has been elm trees. I know that I am allergic to Black Walnut pollen, though my springtime allergies are not this severe.

I did some more online research and found that Chinese elm trees flower in autumn and that the City of Palo Alto is in the process of planting more Chinese elms as street trees.

Yet I also found a web site that identified Chinese elm as a tree that should be avoided by allergy sufferers. Doesn't the City of Palo Alto take these things into consideration when deciding on what type of tree to plant? Could it be that the severity of my allergic reaction has to do with the increasing number of Chinese elm trees in Palo Alto?

Coincidentally, I mentioned my allergy problem to a neighbor, and she told me that she started getting allergy symptoms at about the same time.

I'd like to hear about anyone else who suffered similar hayfever symptoms this weekend.

By the way, the web site indicates that the elm pollen count is expected to drop tomorrow. Good news for us allergy sufferers in Palo Alto.

Comments (17)

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The BAAPCD has the authority to prohibit non-native plants that dispense harmful pollens, but they chose not to exercise that power. Talk to them.

Posted by Hay Fever
a resident of Duveneck School
on Sep 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm

August and September are the worst months for tree pollen allergies. Gets me every year.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Same here. I was sneezing badly on Sat and Sunday in particular. Went to a ballgame in Oakland and felt better - came back and did worse. Took Claritin which helped somewhat, but I hadn't needed it in a number of years. Seems better now.

Posted by me too sniffling
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 15, 2010 at 10:28 pm

I have a beautiful Chinese Elm tree in my backyard. It's huge. Fell in love with it when I bought my house. The first fall after moving into my house (1988), I got my first case of allergies. I told my doctor that I'm allergic to August. It took several years to really pin-point it to the tree but I am very allergic to that tree in August. My nose keeps running until it starts to rain in November. Every August I want to bring it down but then I realize there are so many Chinese Elms in Palo Alto.

Posted by Another sufferer
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Add me to the list.

Chinese elms are all over Palo Alto, and I planted one in my back yard 15 years ago! That was obviously before I knew I was allergic to them, actually very allergic to them. I get allergy shots (have for years), and yet August through November are still difficult months for me. This year seems to be particularly bad. Is it because of the abundant rain last winter? I don't know.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2010 at 3:25 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Perhaps we need work on chemically castrating plants, so they no longer produce pollen. This is one low hanging fruit not harvested.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2010 at 3:05 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Dang - sometimes even a blind pig finds an acorn. Unknown to me when I wrote the above, apparently there is thriving research in chemical castration of plants to control pollen production, some even by marijuana growers. Since allergies are one of the last human maladies tackled with source controls, and since allergies are a leading cause of reduced efficiency, the failure of the Air Pollution Control Districts to consider pollen control is unconscionable.

Posted by SeptOctAllergySufferer
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2013 at 10:25 pm

I live in Menlo Park and have a Chinese Elm in my front yard. My nose is completely blocked today and watering like a tap. I wonder if an indoor air filter will help.

Posted by Allergies Too
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Sep 24, 2013 at 10:43 pm

We have Chinese Elm in our front yard too. Researched air filters and purchased the well-rated BlueAir indoor air filter from Bed Bath Beyond with the 20% off coupon: Web Link

It is quite large but is very quiet on low - can hardly hear it. Does it help? It's in our bedroom, so perhaps helps a bit at night, but pollen is everywhere outside. I dose-up on Claritin and when that stops working after a couple of weeks, use Flonase nose spray (prescription) which helps. I think the drugs probably help more than the air filter, but my allergies are only moderate.

Posted by Honest Abe
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 25, 2013 at 1:06 am

"I'd like to hear about anyone else who suffered similar hayfever symptoms this weekend."

Go to a doc.

Using the internet?


"The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." — Abraham Lincoln

Posted by RunnyNoseWateryEyesSneezing
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 19, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Just looking to see if there were other people at this time of this year ( mid-May 2014) that are suffering from allergies. I used to something get allergies, but this year is terrible. Anyone?

Posted by Me too
a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2014 at 4:38 pm

I am very allergic to elms (I have two in my yard!). I can confirm that starting in mid-August my allergies are awful and it continues for weeks thereafter.

Although I have allergies year round, they are worst in the fall and it's when the trees cause my allergies. We've had no choice but keep all windows and doors shut and install A/C in our house.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2014 at 9:18 pm

My son was tested for what specific tree pollens he was allergic to with skin prick tests, then had allergy shots for those specific allergens, including elm. Problem solved. It does help to know very specifically which trees you are allergic to because then you can figure out which types of trees produce pollen when, and treat it systematically with Zyrtec. And no, the city of Palo Alto could care a less the allergen levels of trees they plant. On the bright side, some trees like Magnolias, cause no tree allergy problems at all, according to our allergy doctor.

Posted by New in Town
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 19, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Our backyard neighbors have two huge trees and they drop all manner of items in our yard - year round. Thank goodness we are not allergic. It sounds really difficult.

If they are not protected trees, is there a reason the highly allergic and suffering residents with them in their own yards don't take them down and replace? Is it the size? cost? Am I a horrible person for suggesting this?

Posted by Me too
a resident of Midtown
on May 20, 2014 at 12:02 am

@ Parent: I was tested, which is why I know I am allergic to the elms for sure. I get shots. I have for years. They help, but in fall, my allergies are still very bad when exposed to outdoor air. Allergy meds like Zyrtec make me very sleepy.

@ New in Town: My two elms are very large and beautiful, and I don't want to get rid of them. I am also allergic to all kinds of other pollens, and other allergy agents. So, removing the trees might help a bit but would not be the end of my allergy problems, unfortunately. Not to mention that Chinese elms are ubiquitous in PA.

Posted by got rid of my own allergies naturally
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2014 at 1:53 am

You might consider the night-blooming jasmine, too. It's very allergenic and planted all over the place. It's on a lot of road medians, and it's very likely you are spending a lot more time sitting next to them if you drive at all in PA.

An allergy filter in your house could help, too.

Posted by got rid of my own allergies naturally
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2014 at 1:58 am

"Since allergies are one of the last human maladies tackled with source controls, and since allergies are a leading cause of reduced efficiency,.."

The majority of people are using products in their homes that significantly increase antigen load. It's effectively to their immune systems like there is far more allergen in the environment than there really is. It's not necessary to change the outside world, just the inside one. And it's actually not even necessary to have air filters, that turns out to be an expensive solution. But it's one people are usually more ready to do.

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