Allergies during catkin season are nothing to sneeze at

Cai Wenjun
Doctors warn allergic reactions to catkins from the city's plane trees can develop into more serious illnesses.
Cai Wenjun

Local doctors are urging allergy sufferers to take care during catkin season.

Allergic reactions to catkins can include sneezing, a running nose, coughing, itching, and eye irritation.  

If not treated the symptoms can develop into asthma, rhinitis and even pneumonia.

Dr Dai Junlai, from Shanghai Ren’ai Hospital, said catkins can combine with dirt and micro-organisms to become an allergen. 

“Catkin is one of the eight commonest allergens in our life,” he said.

He said the hospital recently received a patient who is allergic to catkin. The patient, who has a history of coronary heart disease, has developed heart discomfort after suffering a skin rash.

Dr Zhang Yajun, from Shanghai Yodak Cardio-Thoracic Hospital, said allergic reactions can cause blood vessels to expand. People with cardiovascular disease, especially coronary disease, can suffer a reduction of blood flow and then inflammatory edema in the heart. This leads to chest distress and shortness of breath, and even heart pain.  

“Allergies can be dangerous for middle-aged and elderly people with cardiovascular disease," Zhang said. "They should receive tests to find allergens and avoid contacts of these allergens."

Catkin season in Shanghai usually lasts four weeks between April and May. They mainly come from plane, poplar and willow trees and are typically downy and pendulous.

Plane trees are the major source of catkins in the city as they account for 70 percent of street trees.

In April and May, rising temperatures spur the growth of new leaves, and mature buds burst and fall.

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