Climate change could lengthen allergy season, says ODU expert « News @ ODU

By Amber Kennedy

In the coming weeks, neon green pollen will coat cars, porches and outdoor furniture across the region, and sales of over-the-counter allergy medications will increase. If it feels like allergies are getting worse, you can’t imagine it: Longer-lasting symptoms are another side effect of climate change, according to Jim Blando, associate professor of community and environmental health at the College of Life Sciences. Health from Old Dominion University.

As global temperatures rise, allergy seasons are likely to lengthen and worsen. Warmer temperatures extend growing seasons and facilitate more water in the atmosphere, leading to increased pollen and mold levels. Studies already show that climate change has extended the length of the pollen season in the United States and Europe. In the United States, what is considered “allergy season” is gradually lengthening farther south and increasing with climate change, Blando said. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) estimates that more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year.

Scientists do not expect humans to evolve to changing allergy conditions. Instead, “we’ll be spending a lot more money on allergy products,” Blando said, noting that latest estimates show $18 billion is spent annually on treating allergic rhinitis in the United States. , including over-the-counter and prescription drugs. “It has increased over time, which is another indicator that allergies are getting worse.”

Although most people associate allergy season with itchy eyes, runny nose and stuffy throat, some may experience skin reactions, such as hives – a reaction similar to hives. The prevalence of food and skin allergies increased among children under 18 from 1997 to 2011, according to the ACAAI.

Climate change could also lead to more food allergies. A 2005 study by the United States Department of Agriculture looked at ragweed grown under conditions predicted for the mid-21st century. The study found that increased carbon dioxide could increase the potency of ragweed pollen allergens and, therefore, the prevalence and severity. Blando wonders if the increase in carbon dioxide could have similar effects on the food supply.

“Food allergies are complex, and the studies aren’t as definitive because there are so many potential factors,” Blando said. “But it’s possible that climate change explains why it might feel like there are more food allergies.”

While it’s unlikely anything can be done to reverse the increased severity of allergy season, Blando said taking the steps climate scientists recommend to slow global warming can help. “What we’re doing to try to tackle climate change is what will help tackle allergy season. Without that, I think we’re going to see it continue to get worse,” he said. he declares. “Innovation can always produce amazing things. Never say never.”

To make allergies more bearable, Blando has the following tips:

  • Think before planting: People with allergies may have to choose between personal comfort and planting for pollinators; certain plants, trees and grasses can trigger allergies more than others.
  • Get quality HEPA filters: Studies show that a properly sized High Efficiency Particulate Filter (HEPA) helps considerably. A HEPA air filter can theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and all airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns in size, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Filters are rated by minimum efficiency ratio values, or MERVS; the higher the MERV rating, the better the filter’s performance in trapping particles. Get one for the rooms where you spend the most time, probably bedrooms, living rooms, or home offices.
  • Forget ionic air purifiers: Ionic cleaners produce ozone and in some cases can cause more irritation.
  • Changing the ventilation filters: Use high-quality filters for HVAC system return vents and replace them at least quarterly.

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