Seasonal allergies in California – Are they real?

By: Inderpal Randhawa, M.D., Medical Director, Pediatric Asthma and Allergies, Children’s Pulmonary Institute, MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach

As spring approaches, you can expect warmer weather, but with it comes other changes in the environment around us. In early spring, trees begin producing pollen. Pollen is a plant’s only form of reproduction and it’s produced in mass quantities. It’s carried in the air and can land in the eyes, nose, lungs and on skin.

While there are common allergy triggers that can cause a reaction year-round, many children also suffer from seasonal triggers. Pollen, along with grass and mold, are the most common triggers of seasonal allergies.

Grass pollen triggers allergies starting in early summer; rag weed pollen triggers allergies starting in August and molds affect allergies more during winter.

However, because California has very mild seasons, there may be a swing in all those triggers depending on the humidity, significant weather changes, or long periods of drought. Many of the common seasonal allergy triggers don’t apply in Southern California.

While people may be aware of common seasonal allergy triggers, there are some lesser known factors that can trigger an allergic response as habits change, especially in California where there tends to be more months out of the year with warmer weather. Examples include:

  • Smoke (campfires in summer, fireplaces in winter, fire season in California)
  • Insect bites and stings (usually in spring and summer)
  • Chlorine in indoor and outdoor swimming pools

What Exactly Are Allergies?

Allergies occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies a harmless airborne substance as harmful. The immune system then produces antibodies – which are substances that normally protect the body from things that make children sick – to this harmless substance.

These immune system chemicals cause a reaction that leads to symptoms such as:

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Swollen sinuses
  • Sneezing

Year-Round Allergies vs. Seasonal Allergies

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, more than two-thirds of spring allergy sufferers actually have year-round symptoms. Common allergies that can affect children year-round, include dust mites, pet hair or dander and cockroaches.

Allergy testing overseen by a pediatric allergist can determine what your child is allergic to and whether they suffer from seasonal or year-round allergies.

At the Children’s Pulmonary Institute at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, we have a team of pediatric allergists, who are specially trained to diagnose and manage allergies.

After your child has been tested, the next step is determining what type of treatments will work best for them. Your child’s pediatric allergist may recommend tips to reduce common triggers in your home or they may recommend using medication.

Children suffering with life-threatening allergies may benefit from a cutting-edge treatment called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy involves giving gradually increasing doses of the allergen, to which the person is allergic. Incremental increases of the allergen cause the immune system to become less sensitive to the substance, which reduces the symptoms of allergy when the substance is encountered in the future. The Children’s Pulmonary Institute offers allergy immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots, as well as sublingual immunotherapy, which is given under the tongue.

Learn more about the author, Dr. Inderpal Randhawa.

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