Climate change increased allergy problems


Researchers in Italy recently conducted a review of the available scientific findings and concluded that global warming and its associated effects are likely to contribute to increased allergy prevalence. In Canada, a study found a rise in emergency department visits among children who were exposed to an increased concentration of grass pollen. And researchers in the United States have predicted that this rise in allergies will present an unprecedented public health challenge, as the effects of global warming continue to negatively affect respiratory health.

In the report posted in the magazine of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) entitled OnEarth, posted by Brian Palmer, on top of economic losses of $14.5 billion, 4 million missed workdays, and $700 million in lost productivity each year, allergies make people (millions of them) feel miserable. And a new report out today says climate change could make pollen pack an even greater punch.

The prevalence of allergy in the world is increasing. While there are a number of factors involved, including the Hygiene Hypothesis, one appears to be climate change. As global temperature and CO2 levels rise, plant pollination cycles have become longer and more intense, with record pollen counts becoming routine. This was seen in the U.S. where record temperatures went hand-in-hand with record pollen counts, and with that, record allergy suffering. (

In the study of Union of Concerned Scientists, Science for a healthy planet and safer world, the researchers found that changes in climate impose additional strains on those with pollen allergies. The three main factors related to climate change fuel increases in allergens. Carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas that is the primary cause of our warming planet, increases the growth rate of many plants and increases the amount and potency of pollen. Rising temperatures extend the growing season and the duration of allergy season. And an extended spring season alters the amounts of blooms and fungal spores that are known to exacerbate allergy symptoms.

According to Climate Scientist Dr. Amanda Staudt working at National Wildlife Federation, during spring mixed blessing for allergy sufferers. Tree pollen is the most common trigger for spring hay fever allergies. In the fall, ragweed is projected to thrive and become more irritating under increased carbon dioxide levels. Ragweed plants at today’s carbon dioxide levels are likely produce about twice as much pollen as they would have 100 years ago.

In NRDC, summer allergies are mainly driven by grasses, and not much is known about the effect of temperature or carbon dioxide levels on these grasses. But the release of pollen early in the spring and late into the fall suggests an increase in the amount of suffering for people who are sensitive to more than one type of pollen

“In general, the warmer seasons have been extended,” says Beth Corn, MD, chief of the allergy and asthma clinic at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. “Normally, by the beginning of June, the tree pollen has died down, but lately things are still in full bloom well into June. And the grass season is extending into August.”(Calabro, Sara in Everyday Health)

Watery eyes, runny noses and puffy faces will abound during warm winter; human development and climate change converge to create a brutal allergy season that will likely get worse for years to come, according to experts.

Plants like ragweed are in pollen overdrive from very favorable weather, while stinging insects like yellow jackets and hornets are findings new homes farther north. More people are becoming susceptible to allergies over time as pollen seasons are getting longer.

This increases risks for people who are already sensitized and threatens those with respiratory problems. The spread of allergies can have tremendous economic consequences as patients with reactions fill clinics and emergency rooms and as afflicted workers stay home (Irfan,Umair on Climate Wire).

To control allergy due to climate change, check daily pollen reports and ozone air quality conditions, especially on sunny, clear late summer days with little or no wind, because these are the days when ozone concentrations can be especially high. When pollen or ozone levels are high, minimize your time outdoors, keep windows closed, and postpone your most strenuous outdoor activities for days with relatively low ozone levels.

Shower, and wash bedding and outdoor clothing frequently to remove pollen that settles on pillows and sheets, and vacuum regularly, preferably with a vacuum cleaner that uses a high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filter. Minimize your family’s exposure to other known allergens because of the cumulative effect of multiple allergens in producing symptoms.

You can also see an allergist. This is a good first step because it allows you to be tested for what you’re allergic to or you will block the dust mites if you wake up with swollen, itchy eyes, post-nasal drip, and congestion, you may have a dust mite allergy, one of the most common forms of allergy. Keep the outdoors out extended pollen seasons mean extra steps must be taken to minimize exposure. Since pollen are produced outdoors, it’s a good idea to keep them there. Pollen can remain on clothing and hair long after outdoor exposure, so pollen allergy sufferers should take a shower and change clothing after spending time outside. Also to exercise at the right time because allergy sufferers who like to exercise outdoors should watch the clock.

Doing all we can to prevent climate change from getting worse won’t do much for allergies this season or next, but in the long run, it will make life easier for all of us, and our children and grandchildren. After all, this isn’t about plants being bad for people. We can’t live without them. It’s more about the natural systems that keep us alive and healthy being put out of whack by our reckless behavior.




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