- Climate change has increased the prevalence of seasonal allergies in the United States and around the world.
- Pollen levels are expected to rise 200% by the end of the century.
- The allergy season also increases every year, so more people are showing symptoms.
More than 25 million Americans suffer from itchy eyes, runny nose, and other allergic symptoms caused by seasonal pollen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That number has been on the rise in recent decades, spurred by higher pollen counts and longer warm seasons, Clifford Bassett, an allergist and infectious disease physician told Insider.
Bassett, an assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone, said pollen counts have risen nearly 20% in the past three decades, according to a study published in 2021. The allergy season can be lengthened by up to 20 days a year, which means there’s a larger window Where people may experience symptoms.
They may also experience more severe symptoms as environmental irritants increase, and more of them will require medication to manage their health, Morgan McFall Johnson previously reported to Insider.
Whether your allergy issues are mild or serious, it’s worth noting that pollen counts are expected to increase 200% by the end of the century, according to a study published in Nature in March. The authors speculated that people with pre-existing allergies or respiratory problems might find their symptoms become more severe, and more people will develop them.
in the coming decades.
Plants produce more pollen due to carbon emissions
Carbon dioxide is known as the “greenhouse gas”. Carbon emissions not only contribute to global warming, but are also linked to plant growth.
Plants use carbon dioxide to undergo photosynthesis and produce sugars that drive their growth. Between mild temperatures and increased levels of carbon dioxide, plants were producing more pollen than they had before, according to a 2016 report by Environmental Health Perspective.
The main source of carbon emissions – the extraction and burning of fossil fuels – also contribute to air pollution in general. Bassett told Insider that various pollutants can interact with airborne pollen, which can worsen the severity of allergy symptoms.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists in at least 31 countries have monitored how pollen might affect transmission of the virus. In a study published in March, they confirmed that higher pollen days are associated with a subsequent rise in COVID-19 infection rates.
Longer allergy seasons can have severe consequences for those at risk
Bassett told Insider that decades of global warming have allowed allergy season to start early.
Usually, different types of trees produce pollen at different times of the year. But a longer allergy season also means that different types of plants produce pollen around the same time, which could “double the misery” for people with allergies, according to a recent Nature study.
Higher temperatures also cause different plants to produce more pollen, and a longer growing season means greater suffering for vulnerable groups with allergies.
Asthma, which can be caused by pollen and pollutants, is more prevalent among ethnic minorities and families living below the poverty line. Historically, discriminatory housing policies have kept minorities away from poorly ventilated buildings in areas with high levels of pollution, increasing their risk of respiratory problems, especially during longer allergy seasons, according to Sleep Central.