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Allergies could be getting worse because of climate change

Researchers suggest that consumers could be suffering more than usual

Photo (c) Photodjo - Getty Images
Allergy season is a rough time for many consumers, and while spring is highly anticipated, the constant congestion and sneezing is not.

A new study found that allergies could be getting worse because of climate change, as spring coming quicker only intensifies allergy symptoms.

“We found that areas where the onset of spring was earlier than normal had 14 percent higher prevalence of hay fever,” said researcher Dr. Amir Sapkota. “Surprisingly, we also found similar risk in areas where the onset of spring was much later than what is typical for the geographic location.”

Feeling the effects of an early spring

The researchers had two major components of this study: determining when spring started and then examining consumers’ health in relation to that date.

For the first part, the researchers utilized data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to analyze when plants and trees began releasing pollen. To determine the health effects, the researchers looked at over 300,000 responses to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Health Interview Survey from 2002 through 2013.

In the areas they studied, the researchers found that the early onset of spring -- characterized by plants producing pollen earlier than usual -- worsened allergy symptoms of residents in these areas. However, in areas where spring arrived later, residents were also 14 percent more likely to report symptoms of hay fever.

According to the researchers, the earlier spring comes, the longer allergy sufferers are forced to endure exposure to pollen, whereas when spring comes later, consumers are inundated with large bursts of pollen that can be equally as detrimental to health.

“Previous studies have shown that plant phenology is highly dependent on temperature,” said Dr. Chengsheng Jiang. “As such, it is one of the most sensitive indicators of how our ecosystem is responding to climate change. We show that climate change-driven ecological changes are directly linked to allergic disease burden in the United States. Even a relatively small change in the timing of tree flowering can have a significant economic impact given that 25 million American adults already suffer from hay fever each year.”

Moving forward, the researchers hope that these findings inspire lawmakers to adapt to our changing climate and do everything in their power to intervene as early as possible.

“Climate change impacts our health in more ways than we can imagine,” said Dr. Sapkota. “We need community-specific adaptation strategies to increase resilience and minimize disease burden associated with climate change.”

Fighting allergies and climate change

Many studies have focused on how consumers are suffering due to the changing climate. Not only is public health on the decline due to climate change, but experts have also predicted that cases of Lyme disease are expected to be on the upswing.

Most recently, one researcher from San Francisco State University conducted a study on how humans and wildlife will be affected by the rapidly rising temperatures that we are experiencing due to climate change.

“We can’t say it’s going to happen next year,” said researcher Jonathon Stillman. “But if we continue on the current trajectory, by the end of this century we’re going to see heat waves that will dwarf those that have killed huge numbers of people and wildlife.”

Now with allergies on the brain, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) has released tips to help consumers battle their allergies this coming spring.

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