Climate Change Worsens Allergies
Climate change is one of the big problems the world is facing, and for allergy sufferers, it is making allergy season more miserable. A new study from the University of Maryland provides proof that the “onset of spring” is associated to an increase in season allergies in the U.S.
The study, published in the journal PLOS One, examined satellite data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to calculate the start of spring (SOS) for every county in the U.S. from 2001 to 2013. The researchers compared that data to the prevalence of seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever reported by the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey during the same period.
They found that the areas where the start or onset of spring was earlier than normal, had 14% higher prevalence of hay fever. The study also revealed similar risk in areas where the onset of spring was much later than what is typical for that geographic location. One of the reasons for increased hay fever when spring arrives early, is pollen exposure, because an earlier onset of spring means many species of trees simultaneously burst in bloom, leading to high concentration of pollen for a shorter duration.
Hay fever affects 25 million adults in the U.S. every year, and so understanding how climate change affects seasonal allergies is important to reduce the disease burden and lower related medical costs.
“Climate change impacts our health in more ways than we can imagine. We need community-specific adaptation strategies to increase resilience and minimize disease burden associated with climate change,” according to Associated Professor Amir Sapkota, from the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health.