New: tree compass for hay fever patients

When furnishing living and working spaces, it is important not to plant too many trees that can release highly allergenic pollen. Biologist and researcher Dr. Letty de Weger of the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). To create a better living environment for people with hay fever, he created a tree compass: an overview of the pollen of the most common trees in the Netherlands, ranked by allergenicity. Also useful for hay fever sufferers who want to (re)decorate their garden.

The tree compass is available online and is suitable for a wide audience. About 20 percent of the Dutch suffer from hay fever. They can develop serious breathing problems if they live or work in an environment where the air contains a lot of allergenic pollen. For them it is important not to plant too many trees with pollen (together), this can cause a strong allergic reaction.

Information about trees and allergic pollen

With the onset of spring, the first birch pollen grains are flung into the air again. How much pollen a tree produces depends on several factors. Consider, for example, the climatic conditions of the place where the tree is located. There are trees in southern Europe that cause severe hay fever complaints, but hardly any in the Netherlands. And vice versa.

Municipalities are creating a lot of greenery in new residential areas. “That is of course a good thing, but there is often a lack of information about which trees can cause hay fever symptoms,” says De Weger. “That is why the possible consequences for hay fever sufferers are not always taken into account when designing (new) habitats. With Bomenkompas, De Weger wants to offer an alternative to private individuals, politicians and landscape architects. With the compass it is easy to see which trees may contain allergenic pollen: in the Netherlands, birch proudly leads the list with a “very strong” allergenicity, while alder and hazel also have a high allergenicity score in Northern and Central Europe.

pollen conscious environment

Birch has a high allergenic value, but is also often found on the street. This is because it is a beautiful and strong tree that can withstand low temperatures. “Although the tree only produces allergenic pollen for a few weeks a year, this is a characteristic to consider when making tree planting decisions,” says De Weger.

They believe that a much better balance can be achieved with a tree compass. “It is therefore not my intention to ban birch from the streets, but we must, for example, ensure that not all streets are full of alders and hazelnuts. Or there is a large birch tree in a schoolyard. A tree compass can help in setting up the site to be ‘aware of pollen’ and in doing so we create a much better living environment for people with hay fever.”

  • Author: editors
  • Source: Health Net