Spring in San Diego brings in some significant challenges for individuals with seasonal allergy. San Diego is one of the most interesting cities in the USA and that holds true for allergens as well as it does for weather, natural beauty and entertainment. Our spring pollen season begins in mid January with pollen from Alder, Ash, Mulberry and Walnut trees. In February we see additional tree pollens such as Cottonwood, Elm, Oak, Queen Palm, and Sycamore. March brings out the Olive tree pollen and the grass pollens begin to be noticeable as well. By April we see Acacias pollinating just as the January and early February tree pollens begin to subside.
April also starts the weed season and as we move into May grass and weed pollens dominate along with Pepper Tree pollen. Low levels of grass and weed pollens can be found throughout San Diego all summer long and then as fall approaches the grass and weed pollens dominate again. About the only months that are pollen free in San Diego are November and December, and even then a two week warm spell may confuse the flora and cause some local blooms. Since golf courses and green zones are irrigated regularly, a little off season warm weather can raise local pollen levels.
Our mild weather and varied terrain play a major role in the growth of plant life in San Diego. The ocean, the desert, canyons, cliffs, hills and mountains combine to create about 16 different climate zones within San Diego County, allowing for nearly any form of plant life in the world to find a happy little niche. Contrast that with a place like Omaha Nebraska, where the surrounding 500 miles may have only one or two climate zones. Since San Diego is not flat, local terrain can produce micro climates and trap or funnel pollens into a small area. What this means is that almost anyone may be having a reaction to some highly localized pollen at anytime, despite what our official general pollen counts may show.
Here are some tips to help reduce allergy symptoms this spring:
- Follow local pollen counts where they are available. Pollen counts on this site are for the College Area of
San Diego, and representative of San Diego in general. Our botanist, Dr. Tim Cass, collects pollen with a
professional system mounted on our roof, and counts pollens under a microscope two to three times a
- Stay indoors during the morning and early afternoon when pollens are at the highest levels.
- Wash your hair before going to bed to rinse out the pollens.
- Undress outside your bedroom and leave the pollen covered clothes away from your sleep area.
- Keep outdoor exercise reserved for low pollen hours, in the late afternoon and evening.
- Trim the bushes and trees around your home short, before they pollinate.
- Wear a high efficiency filter mask (HEPA) when mowing the lawn.
- Avoid using window fans and evaporative coolers that draw pollen laden air into the home.
- Close your car windows and drive with the A/C on in the recirculate mode.
- Antihistamines can be used to help prevent allergic reactions to pollens, and non-sedating or low
sedating formulas are available by prescription. (Be cautious about over the counter antihistamines,
except for loratadine, they are all sedating and can impair driving skills. Under California State law, you
may be considered “under the influence” in an accident or when ticketed for illegal driving actions.)
- Nasal corticosteroids also help reduce nasal reactivity during the pollen season when used daily, and are
also available by prescription.
- Ocular symptoms may be relieved by prescription topical antihistamines. Over the counter eye drops
that reduce redness are decongestants, not antihistamines, and they can cause rebound redness making
the eyes worse when used for too many days.
- Discuss your allergy sensitivities with your allergist, and make a plan to avoid spring exacerbations,
especially if you have asthma that is triggered by spring allergens.
- Immunotherapy for those with severe seasonal or perennial allergy is often the most effective treatment
and should be discussed with your allergist.