Is it the cat?
The roses she loves to smell?
The dust on all of the stuffed animals in her room?
The Cottonwood tree blooming in the yard next door?
How do you know?
Identifying Allergy Triggers
If your other kids are dog lovers, they are probably voting for the cat, but depending on the time of year, her pattern of symptoms, and where you live, there could be plenty of candidates.
One thing you can check off your list – the roses.
Allergies are typically caused by pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds – not other types of flowering plants, like roses, geraniums, or begonias, etc. These “allergy-friendly” plants don’t produce much pollen. Other plants with flowers that are said to be fairly non-allergenic include orchids, pansies, petunias, snapdragons, and zinnias, etc.
“Brightly colored flowers that attract bees and other insects or humming birds are generally not allergenic.”
Michael J. Schumacher, MB, FRACP, The University of Arizona
In general, plants with wind-borne pollen can trigger allergies.
Are your child’s allergies better after it rains? Since heavy rains can lower pollen counts in the air, that could be a hint to a seasonal allergy trigger.
What about when it is dry and windy? Does that make your child’s allergies worse? Since pollen is carried by the wind, a dry, windy day will likely mean that there is more pollen in the air, which is another hint to a seasonal allergy trigger.
Do your child’s year round allergies quickly get better when he is away from home for a few days or weeks? That could be a hint to something inside your house being a trigger, although if he traveled far away, to another area of the country, it could simply mean that he wasn’t exposed to the same pollen in the air.
Understanding Allergy Triggers
Year round, or perennial allergy symptoms, are likely caused by things inside your home.
If your child’s allergies only seem to be bad at very specific times of the year, then pollen from grasses, trees, or weeds could be the trigger. Which pollen is high in your area when your child’s allergy symptoms are acting up?
Allergy testing is always an option if your child’s allergies are hard to control, either skin testing or a blood test.
Indoor Allergens That Trigger Allergy Symptoms
Year round allergy symptoms can often be caused by things in your home:
- Cat and dog dander
- Dermatophagoides farinae and pteronyssinus (dust mites)
- Mice (mouse allergens/mouse urine proteins)
- Cockroach saliva, feces, and body parts (cockroach allergens)
While allergy testing can help you figure out which to blame, if you don’t have any indoor pets and can eliminate mold in the house, then maybe you can blame dust mites.
Weeds That Trigger Allergy Symptoms
Most people think of ragweed as the classic weed that can trigger seasonal allergies. Often described as being “packed with pollen,” each ragweed plant produces up to one billion pollen grains each season! These ragweed pollen grains are carried by the wind and can trigger allergy symptoms from early to mid-August through September and October – fall allergy season.
Others weeds that commonly trigger allergies include:
- Russian thistle (tumbleweed)
- Rough marsh elder
- Rough pigweed
- Sheep sorrel
Again, if necessary, allergy testing can help you figure out to which weed your child is allergic, but if their allergies peak in the fall, it is likely triggered by weeds.
Trees That Trigger Allergy Symptoms
Which trees are most likely to trigger allergy symptoms?
It depends on where you live, but in the spring, mountain cedar, pecan, elm, maple, birch, ash, oak, and cottonwood, are common offenders.
If you are allergic to tree pollen, you can expect symptoms in late winter to early spring.
Grasses That Trigger Allergy Symptoms
While many people don’t think of summer as a typical allergy season, that is actually when grass pollen is in the air.
Do you know which grasses are commonly grown in your area?
Bermuda grass, Timothy, Kentucky Blue, Johnson, Rye, or Fescue? Are your kids allergic to any of them? If so, their allergy symptoms will probably act up in the late spring and early summer.
Molds That Trigger Allergy Symptoms
Depending on where you live, molds can either cause seasonal symptoms (colder climates) or they can be a cause of year round symptoms.
And you can expect outdoor mold spore counts to be extra high when it is warm and humid.
Inside, mold grows best in parts of the house that are cool and damp, with common suspects including:
- Cladosporium herbarum
- Penicillium notatum
- Alternaria alternata
- Aspergillus fumigatus
Have you seen any of these names on your child’s allergy test results? Although it is considered part of our natural environment, you can keep mold from growing inside your home.
What To Know About Allergy Triggers
Identifying your child’s allergy trigger or allergy season won’t make them away. It can help you learn to avoid or control them though, or at least help get prepared by starting your child’s allergy medicines before he is exposed.
More Information about Allergy Triggers
- 9 tips for ditching dust mites
- Hay Fever Triggers: Tips for Parents
- Pollen Allergy: Reduce Exposure
- Know Your Allergy Season
- When Pets Are the Problem
- Allergy Tests – When you need them and when you don’t
- Allergy Testing in Children and Infants
- Sublingual Immunotherapy
- Patterns of Allergen Cross-Reactivity
- CDC – Molds in the Environment
- EPA – Moisture and Mold Prevention and Control Tips
- Allergy and Asthma in the Southwestern United States
- Weed Identification
- Mice in an attic in a patient with increased respiratory symptoms
- Cockroach Allergy
- HEPA Filters
Last Updated on June 21, 2017 by Vincent Iannelli, MD