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Seasonal allergies in the US are worsening as a result of the climatic crisis – warn experts

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

If you think your seasonal allergies are worse this year, you’re not alone. Increased temperatures are associated with longer tree and grass pollen seasons.

Based on a study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, temperature rises in northern California aggravate pollen-related allergies, whereas precipitation changes are related to more mold spores in the air.

Climate change is really a problem for health, and we are living and breathing the effects of climate change now

said Kari Nadeau, the lead author of the study and professor of medicine and of pediatrics at Stanford School of Medicine.

According to a press release, Ms. Nadeau was interested in the subject because she noticed that patients reported that their seasonal allergies were worsening.

As an allergist, it is my duty to follow the pollen counts, and I was noticing that the start date of the tree pollen season was earlier every year

Nadeau said.

My patients were complaining, and I would say, ‘This is such a tough year,’ but then I thought, wait, I’m saying that every year.

As part of the study, researchers collected data at a National Allergy Bureau accredited pollen counting station in Los Altos Hills, California. They indexed pollen from trees, grasses, weeds and air mold spores each week for an 18-year period from 2002 to 2019. In their review, the researchers found that the pollen season in northern California now begins earlier and ends later. More specifically, local pollen and tree mould spores increased 0.47 and 0.51 weeks per year, each year of the study. Researchers have also identified links between allergen levels and environmental changes.

While the study is local in northern California, the trend continues across the U.S.

In addition to environmental changes, higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are also believed to be associated with higher levels of pollen. Another 2000 study found that rabies plants, one of the causes of seasonal hay colds, grew in size when exposed to more carbon dioxide. The Union of Concerned Scientists says carbon dioxide increases plant growth rates. This is especially frightening in the case of weeds such as ragweed.

In the fall, ragweed is a major culprit in allergies because when it’s warmer it grows longer

said Kenneth Mendez, the president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Frost is the first thing that kills ragweed, the first frost, so the later and later you have a longer growing season the worse the allergies will be.

A 2018 study, published in the journal PLOS ONE found that ragweed will widen its reach as temperatures rise. With the help of machine learning, researchers analysed that in roughly 35 years its ecological range will shift northward, bringing hayfever to areas it had never been before. Seasonal allergies can trigger asthma.

Last year, masks gave some relief to people with allergies. The size of the pollen grains varies from 200 microns to 10 microns, and the masks may have blocked a few when people came out from the lockdown.

As immunization rates rise, Americans collectively look forward to spending the summer outside and without masks, unlike last year’s pandemic summer, which many spent inside. However, for more and more people with allergies, seasonal allergies reduce the joy we associate with summer weather.

Image Credit: Getty

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