How pollen might play into Californians’ spring allergies

             Photo Source : Krzysztof Niewolny – Unsplash

Spring in California means lots of pollen is on the way. Weather patterns play a role, of course, in determining how much pollen we can expect. And this has been an extremely odd wet season.

Dr. Sharon Chinthrajah with the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University spoke with CapRadio’s Randol White to help us understand how this might play into our spring allergies and ways to better manage them.

Based on what you know about our rainy season this year, what does this spring look like to you pollen-wise?

We’re already starting to see an earlier start to our pollen season this year, and I think that this is a trend due to climate change. We have actually studied this and published it last year, looking at the previous 18 years in our Bay Area and showing that our seasons of pollination have increased by half a week each year.

What are the plants that seem to be making people react? Is it the same in most years?

In our area, it’s been the tree pollens and we looked at a variety of environmental pollens that are around throughout the year, tree pollens, and mold spores that have increased in their pollination period. But in different geographic areas, it could be weeds or grass pollens.

Where is the research on allergies? Do we better understand now how they work and what can be done to reduce the misery?

We have ways to mitigate allergies. It’s really hard to avoid the triggers because everybody is outside. Part of that allergy action plan is to have antihistamines on hand. But then if symptoms go beyond that and you start to experience allergic asthma symptoms where you’re now having respiratory issues, that’s a really important reason to get into the doctor. You will need asthma medication and then to consider allergy shots, which is the way to really retrain that confused immune signal.

If you lean on the over-the-counter allergy pills, can you take them just when you’re feeling the symptoms, or do you need to take them all the time for them to work properly?

There are some medications that you can take kind of just when you’re feeling the symptoms. What I tell all of my patients is to really be a good detective, kind of note those things that are triggering your allergies or your asthma. Now, allergies can be as mild as, you know, just eye itching or eye tearing, but it can be even more severe than that with nasal congestion, cough, phlegm, asthma symptoms. And that can predispose you then to other infections from viruses, right? Because that’s changing the way that you are interacting with the environment. You can track local pollen counts in your area online and to note when the start of the season is.

What about neti pots or other forms to clean out your nasal cavity? Are those safe and do they work?

Yeah, neti pots and sinus rinses are really great. Other measures I tell my patients, you know, if you’re outside during the day when you come in, you might change your clothes, maybe take nighttime showers instead of morning showers so that you get the pollen out of your hair and that you’re not sleeping on it for eight hours at night. If you have the bandwidth to buy an air purifier to kind of take those pollens out of circulation within your house.


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