It’s that time of the year again, when the pollen allergies come back and this time it has gotten worse for the people in the US.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, millions of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies each year, and climate change is making it worse. About one-quarter of adults (26%) and 19% of children in the US suffer from seasonal allergies.
As per a new report released by Climate Central, since 1970 warmer temperatures have affected allergy season in 203 US cities. On an average, growing season i.e the period between the last freeze in spring to the first freeze of falls lasting 16 days longer in the Southeast, 15 days longer in the Northeast and 14 days longer in the South, the report adds.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology has divided pollen into three general seasons. Trees start pollinating in the spring (with birch, cedar, cottonwood, and pine the largest allergy triggers). Summer time sees the pollination of grasses. Weeds have been identified as the biggest culprit of allergy triggers in the fall, with ragweed being the biggest offender.
According to the report, plants reproduce, typically during the spring, releasing tiny pollen grains that are carried by wind. The pollen grains are small enough to be inhaled, and some people’s immune systems react very poorly to the miniscule particles.
Experts have linked change in these patterns with climate change. Allergy season will start much earlier than normal and be far more intense because of the climate crisis.As spring seasons get warmer earlier due to climate change, plants could pollinate much earlier and for a longer period of time than they currently do, study states.
Several studies have reported how pollen levels are peaking earlier and pollen counts have worsened over the years. Changes in the duration and intensity of pollen season affect allergic disorders like seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma. People with respiratory illnesses like asthma may be more sensitive to pollen.
Treatment of allergies won’t change, even as the season gets longer, but it’s important to be aware of what you’re allergic to and know where these triggers are in the environment, the study added. Taking certain precautions like staying indoors, especially early in the morning or late in the afternoon, keeping windows closed in your home and car to minimise your exposure to pollen particles, helps. Also change air filters more frequently for your A/C and heating systems in your home and car, and prepare early by stocking up on anti-allergy medications.