Spring has sprung, the flowers are blooming, and allergy season is well underway and seemingly worse than ever. While nearly 20 million Americans are going to feel the affects, new studies show that climate change may be to blame.
The reason why has the do with airborne pollen, which has increased with warming temperatures, according to scientists.
Dr. Jeffrey Demain from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology gave a talk about some of the environmental changes taking place.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s annual survey, fewer “freeze-free” days in the year between 1995 and 2011 led to 11-27 days added to pollen season for most of the nation, and they’ve discovered that it’s been growing each year.
According to CNN’s Jen Christensen, studies show that with this comes more allergies because plants like ragweed will begin migrating north, likely bringing New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine more pollen.
Angel Waldron, the director of communications for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, explained to CNN how much we are now seeing the impact of climate change on allergies.
“Warmer temperatures allow the trees to pollinate earlier and for longer times. We didn’t used to see our cars covered in pollen before March, but we do now, and we hear from people all the time who are dealing with allergies for a lot longer than they used to when they were little. That’s definitely connected to climate change.”
A prime example of these changes taking noticeable effects happened in Durham, North Carolina this month with Jeremy Gilchrist’s #Pollmageddon photos. The former meteorologist used a drone to snap pictures of massive clouds of pollen overtaking the sky in a yellowish haze.
This is a prime example of tree pollen on the move, and North Carolina isn’t the only Appalachian state set to feel the effects of it, according to AAFA and the National Wildlife Federation’s report on the impact of climate change on people with asthma and allergies.
Their report revealed that the effects of climate change favor trees with more highly allergenic pollen.
“In particular, habitat suitable for highly allergenic oak and hickory species may expand at the expense of habitat where much less allergenic pine, spruce, and fir trees currently dominate. These shifts might be most dramatic along the Appalachian Mountains, Northeastern states from Pennsylvania to Maine, in the Upper Midwest, and along the lower Mississippi River.”
When looking further into just how dramatic these shifts might be in West Virginia, the state has a low to moderate allergenic potential level on the current habitat distribution map, but is projected to be high to very high by 2100 in a high emissions scenario.
Unfortunately, things aren’t looking to get any better for allergy sufferers unless things change. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, under current environmental conditions, researchers expect to pollen counts in the U.S. to double by 2040.
According to EcoWatch’s Sam Nickerson researchers have even more reason to believe that climate change is linked to the growing severity of allergy season. The Union of Concerned Scientists has found several signs of climate change and that also drive allergen production such as Increase in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Temperature Increases, and Seasonal Creep.
The impacts of climate change can take a huge toll on allergy sufferers, and according to Vox, “can cause mild annoyances like hives or itchy eyes, or life-threatening issues like anaphylaxis, where blood pressure plummets and airways start swelling shut.”
Many have even taken to social media to express their concern and note just how much more allergy season is affecting them this year.
While many of us are rightfully frustrated, there are still some things that we can do to help. According to CNN, things such as turning out the lights when leaving a room, use energy efficient light bulbs, unplug chargers from outlets when they’re not being used, and washing clothes in cold water instead of hot are all small chances we can make in our daily lives to help slow climate change.
As well as this you can also join the action network for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America to stay up to date about pending federal or state asthma and allergy legislation.