While the source and causes of climate change may be debatable, there is no denying it is a real phenomenon. One of its most visible consequences is the growth of larger plants and their accelerated pollination. On the surface, it may sound like a positive outcome to you, but only if you’re discounting allergies.
As Richard Weber, MD, an allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver, puts it: "With the combination of increased temperature and carbon dioxide, we see a dramatic change, and allergy sufferers can probably feel that change. We are experiencing longer allergy seasons, earlier onset and there is just more pollen in the air."
Weber, who happens to be the past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, refers to a series of recently published studies to illustrate how the changing climate is affecting human allergies. In the United States, for example, the ragweed pollen season has been extended 13 to 27 days; and short ragweed pollen has increased by up to over 90% in both biomass and pollen production. “Pollen counts are going up, and in some cases, dramatically so,” confirms Weber.
No doubt that those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies — 40 million Americans — will have noticed that their symptoms tend to start earlier every year. "A year ago, we saw pollen counts of certain trees that were about three times higher than what we normally would see in years past," said Weber. "It was awful. Plants that ordinarily were pollinating in April, by the beginning of March, they were going gangbusters."
No matter what might be done about it in the future, problems related to climate change will not go away, at least not during our lifetime. "We’re in a fairly consistent rise of temperatures that’s been going on for the last 150 years," said Weber. "Even if we act aggressively this year or next year, or 10 years from now, it won’t have an impact for another 100 years or so."
Here are a few tips for allergy sufferers that may help in alleviating the symptoms:
Start taking your medications early: Allergy medications work best if you take them before your immune system has revved up enough to make you miserable. Once the immune system is in high gear medications are less effective and take longer to relieve symptoms.
Get out early: Weed pollens are at their highest levels around midday. Do your gardening and other outdoor activities in the early morning.
Close your windows, even at night: Although the weed pollens may peak during midday, enough weed pollens continue floating in the air during the night to plague allergy sufferers in bed. Turn on the air conditioning instead.
Dr. Weber published his work in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in 2017. For more tips on controlling allergies visit the experts at National Jewish Health. The nonprofit facility has ranked as the number one respiratory hospital in the nation for 15 consecutive years, according to U.S.News & World Report.