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ACAAI > Patients & Public > Resources > Ask the Allergist
Nut allergies and pollinating trees?

Q. My daughter is food-allergic to all tree nuts. Our pecan trees are pollinating right now and she seems to be having a runny nose and coughing. Can she be allergic to this tree pollen as well, and do I need to keep the epinephrine injector close by?

A. While pecan tree pollen may share some proteins with its corresponding nut, most likely your daughter will not be allergic to that tree pollen just because she has a tree nut allergy. A cross reactivity between nut proteins and the pollen from the nut-producing tree has not been described in the literature.

A person who is allergic to certain tree pollen (not typically nut-bearing trees, though) may have what is called "oral allergy syndrome" when they eat walnut in particular, and some other tree nuts. Symptoms include mouth itchiness, and nausea, and are less likely to progress to more severe symptoms - and sometimes have cough from drainage or allergic asthma- during the tree pollen season.

So, the most likely possibility is that your daughter - in addition to her food allergy to tree nuts - has environmental allergies to tree pollen, but would be unlikely to need her epinephrine for this problem. Consider discussing this further with your allergist. Of course, epinephrine should always be on hand, in the event an accidental ingestion of nuts causes a severe reaction.