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Am I Allergic to the Cottonwood?

Posted on: 06/06/2011

By  Peter M. G. Deane, M. D.

In late spring you see the cottonwood fluff all over. At the same time, allergies are often acting up. Are you allergic to the cottonwood? It seems oblivious—it’s in the air everywhere.

Actually, just because we get symptoms when we see the cottonwood fluff doesn’t mean that we get symptoms because of the cottonwood fluff. Cottonwoods, also known as poplars, are found all over North America. In our area, they put their pollen in the air from mid-March to mid-May. (Cottonwood pollen is one of the pollens that coat our cars with that yellow-green powder in the spring. It’s also one of the pollens to which we get allergies in the early spring.) Once they have pollinated, then they can then go to seed. This happens from late spring into early summer. Their seeds are attached to the fluff. The wind spreads around the fluff—and the seeds along with it. No cottonwood pollen is in the air then.

It turns out that at the very same time as the cottonwood fluff is in the air, grass and spring weeds are pollinating. But you can’t see pollen in the air.
So you can’t have allergies to the cottonwood fluff you see in the air—but you sure can be allergic to the grass and weeds pollens that are in the air with them.

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