A Pollen Primer

When it comes to allergic rhinitis (aka hayfever), pollen is one of the major triggers of allergies. If you’re prone to hayfever, your body can misidentify the harmless plant material as a threat that needs to be eliminated. This process can provoke allergic reactions that cause symptoms such as sneezing, and an itchy, runny nose. But not all pollen is created equal. Different plants, and different times of the year, can affect the onset and severity of allergy symptoms (the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy have a handy pollen calendar available for reference). There are many types of pollen that are known to exacerbate allergic rhinitis. So, what are the main groups that Australians should watch out for?

Grass Pollen

Plants that produce pollen that’s spread in the wind (as opposed to by animals) are among the most common causes of hayfever (along with dust mites and pet dander from cats and dogs).

For Australians, that tends to mean grass pollen. If you live in the southern part of the country, ryegrass is a common cause of allergic rhinitis. The perennial grass is often planted in agricultural projects, but it’s also found in lawns and by roadsides. Its peak period of pollen production occurs in late-November, a time when allergy complaints tend to increase.

If you live in the north of Australia, watch out for subtropical grass species like bahia and bermuda grass which have been linked with allergic reactions. Pollen activity in these areas is high in October and November, and peaks again in the height of summer – due to late-blooming grasses.

Birch Pollen

Birch pollen is one of the most common plant allergens, with many of those who suffer from hayfever showing symptoms when exposed. Silver birches are found in Australia, and despite preferring a cooler climate they have been planted throughout the country.

Pollen from the trees is most commonly found in the early spring when birches are in bloom.

Pine Pollen

Pollen produced by pine trees is another relatively common trigger of hayfever symptoms. For Aussies, this includes local varietals like the evergreen Australian pine that are found in the northern part of the country, and the white cypress-pine that occupy the east coast.

Weed Pollen

There are several types of pollen-producing weeds that are found throughout the country. Invasive species like wild oats and common ragweed can exacerbate hayfever symptoms and are both found widely across the country. Weed pollen tends to be most prevalent in late summer, right through to early autumn.

Olive Pollen

Olive trees produce pollen that’s known to cause hayfever. Although they’re more prevalent in Mediterranean countries, olive trees are found throughout Australia both as ornamental plants and in working farmland. Those who react to olive pollen will find that their symptoms are most severe during late spring when the plants flower.

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The materials on this site have been prepared for general information purposes only. They are not intended to be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

  • ASCIA, ‘Pollen allergy’, www.allergy.org.au, 2017 (Accessed September 2018)
  • Asthma Foundation of Victoria, ‘The low allergen garden’, National Asthma Council Australia, 2017 (Accessed September 2018)
  • ASCIA, ‘Pollen calendar – a guide to common allergic pollen’, www.allergy.org.au, 2018 (Accessed September 2018)
  • Davies JM, Li H, Green M, Towers M, Upham JW. ‘Subtropical grass pollen allergens are important for allergic respiratory diseases in subtropical regions’, Clinical and Translational Allergy, 2012 (Accessed September 2018)