Allergy to oak pollen in North America

Allergy Asthma Proc. 2021 Jan 1;42(1):43-54. doi: 10.2500/aap.2021.42.200089.


Background: Oak pollen is an important allergen in North America. The genus Quercus (oak) belongs to the family Fagaceae under the order Fagales. Objective: The objective of this article was to narratively review the oak pollen season, clinical and epidemiologic aspects of allergy to oak pollen, oak taxonomy, and oak allergen cross-reactivity, with a focus on the North American perspective. Methods: A PubMed literature review (no limits) was conducted. Publications related to oak pollen, oak-related allergic rhinitis with or without conjunctivitis, and oak-related allergic asthma were selected for review. Results: Oak species are common throughout the United States and contribute up to 50% to overall atmospheric pollen loads. Mean peak oak pollen counts can reach >2000 grains/m³. The start of the oak pollen season generally corresponds to the seasonal shift from winter to spring based on latitude and elevation, and may begin as early as mid February. The duration of the season can last > 100 days and, in general, is longer at lower latitudes. In the United States, ∼30% of individuals with allergy are sensitized to oak. The oak pollen season correlates with increased allergic rhinitis symptom-relieving medication use and asthma-related emergency department visits or hospitalizations. Oak falls within the birch homologous group. Extensive immunologic cross-reactivity has been demonstrated between oak pollen and birch pollen allergens, and, more specifically, their major allergens Que a 1 and Bet v 1. The cross-reactivity between oak and birch has implications for allergy immunotherapy (AIT) because guidelines suggest selecting one representative allergen within a homologous group for AIT, a principle that would apply to oak. Conclusion: Allergy to oak pollen is common in North America and has a substantial clinical impact. Oak pollen allergens are cross-reactive with birch pollen allergens, which may have implications for AIT.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Antigens, Plant / immunology
  • Conjunctivitis / epidemiology
  • Conjunctivitis / immunology*
  • Cross Reactions
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Pollen / immunology
  • Quercus
  • Rhinitis, Allergic / epidemiology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic / immunology*


  • Allergens
  • Antigens, Plant