If it seems like your allergies are getting worse each year, it’s not just in your head. New research suggests that global warming is worsening the pollen seasons across North America, leading to longer periods of seasonal allergies.
Understanding Pollen Allergies
Allergies are your body’s response to a seemingly harmless substance called an allergen. To fight off the intruder, your body releases histamines, which are the cause of common allergy symptoms such as:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Itchy throat and eyes
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 19.2 million adults and 5.2 million children have been diagnosed with hay fever, the technical term for seasonal allergies, within the last 12 months.
You may have noticed after walking through Zorinsky Lake Park you feel more congested and itchier than before you went outside. This is because pollens from trees, grasses and weeds are the cause of most seasonal allergies.
Climate Change Study
Published in the February 2021 issue of PNAS, the researchers who worked on “Anthropogenic climate change is worsening North American pollen seasons” wanted to go beyond the work that was already done. While many have already connected changes in health to climate change, study authors were looking to see if climate change has a direct impact on pollen counts, which are one of the major driving forces behind asthma, allergies and respiratory problems within the United States.
The researchers examined pollen metrics from 60 monitoring stations across North America between 1990 and 2018. They found that pollen seasons were beginning 20 days earlier and lasting up to eight days longer. There was also an increase in pollen counts by 20.9% between 1990 and 2018.
The largest changes in pollen counts were seen in Texas and the midwestern United States. While the reason is not clear, researchers suspect that the plant species in these areas are more sensitive to warming and produce more pollen.
This study also looked to identify the specific causes of this increase in pollen count. Among temperate changes, frost days, rainfall and carbon dioxide concentrations, they found that the increase in average annual temperate was the strongest driving force.
To learn more about the causes of seasonal allergies or how to treat your allergy symptoms, schedule an appointment with the experts at Central Plains ENT today.