Birch and other related trees of the families Betulaceae and Fagaceae (alder, hazel, oak, hornbeam, chestnut, and beech) constitute the birch homologous group. This grouping is primarily based on the extensive IgE cross-reactivity of allergen homologs to the major birch allergen Bet v 1. Birch pollen is the most dominant tree pollen in Northern and Central Europe and is a major cause of allergic rhinitis and, possibly, asthma symptoms. Over the last few decades, levels of birch pollen have risen and the period of exposure has increased due to climate changes. Subsequently, the prevalence of birch pollen sensitization has also increased. The cross-reactivity and sequential pollen seasons within the birch homologous group create a prolonged symptomatic allergy period beyond birch pollen alone. Furthermore, many plant food allergens contain homologs to Bet v 1, meaning that the majority of patients with birch pollen allergy suffer from secondary pollen food syndrome (PFS). As a result, the negative impact on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in patients allergic to birch pollen is significant. The purpose of this manuscript was to narratively review topics of interest such as taxonomy, cross-reactivity, prevalence, clinical relevance, PFS, and HRQoL with regard to birch pollen allergy from a European perspective.
Keywords: alder; allergic rhinitis; birch; cross-reactivity; hazel.
© 2019 EAACI and John Wiley and Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley and Sons Ltd.