Global Warming Increases Misery for Nation’s 50 Million Allergy Sufferers
As spring approaches, the nation's 50 million people with allergies can blame global warming for some of their suffering. Weather conditions have a significant effect on the levels of pollen and mold in the air, which in turn affects the severity of allergy symptoms. Typically, the common allergens that cause allergic rhinitis ("hay fever") flourish when the weather is warm.
"When winter weather turns unexpectedly warm, pollens and molds are released into the air earlier than usual, and then die down when it gets cold again," said Stanley Fineman, MD, of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. "This pattern of weather can ‘prime' a person's allergic reaction, so when the allergen reappears as the weather gets warm again, the allergy symptoms are worse than ever.
"In general, this warming climate change also will result in allergy symptoms occurring earlier than in the past," Dr. Fineman said.
Climate and Allergies
While the timing and severity of an allergy season varies in regions across the country, the following climate factors also can influence how bad allergy symptoms might be:
- Tree, grass and ragweed pollens thrive on cool nights and warm days.
- Molds like heat and humidity.
- Pollen levels tend to peak in the morning hours.
- Rain washes pollen away, but their counts can soar after a rain.
- On a day with no wind, airborne allergens are grounded.
- When the day is windy and warm, pollen counts surge.
- Moving to another climate to avoid allergies is usually not successful — allergens are virtually everywhere.
Allergy Season Tips
Know your triggers. If you don't know what triggers your allergies, visit an allergist to find out. More than two-thirds of spring allergy sufferers actually have year-round symptoms.
- Work with your doctor to devise strategies to avoid your triggers, such as:
- Monitor pollen and mold counts — most media report this information during allergy seasons.
- Keep windows and doors shut at home, and in your car during allergy season.
- Stay inside during mid-day and afternoon hours when pollen counts are highest.
- Take a shower, wash hair and change clothing after working or playing outdoors.
- Wear a mask when doing outdoor chores like mowing the lawn. An allergist can help you find the type of mask that works best.
There's no reason to suffer during spring allergy season. An allergist can work with you to discuss treatment options. The most effective way to treat spring allergies is with allergy shots, also called immunotherapy. These shots slowly introduce a little bit of what causes your allergy, so your body learns to tolerate it rather than react with sneezing, a stuffy nose or itchy eyes.