Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=220498
Story Retrieval Date: 11/27/2014 12:21:24 PM CST

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Allergy season is longer and plants are producing more pollen due to climate change.


Climate change making allergy season even worse, experts say

by Arshon Howard
Apr 24, 2013


Allergy sufferers know it's spring when they start sneezing, getting itchy eyes and other symptoms. Now experts say that climate change is only making things worse.

The changing climate has brought early spring, late-ending fall and large amounts of rain and snow, which are some of the contributing factors that prolong pollen seasons, according to allergists.

“The planet is getting warmer,” said Melrose Park allergist and immunologist Dr. Rachna Shah. “Allergy season has been longer than usual, as plants are stronger and are able to produce more pollen. It’s a trend that we can’t deny.”

Over the last couple of years pollen season has started two to four weeks earlier and extend four weeks longer into the fall, said Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York.

In Chicago, the climate change has caused the tree and grass season to have unusual starts and delays.

“Grass season has started,” Shah said. But the cooler, wetter spring has meant trees are budding later than usual. “We are also just getting started in the tree season, as around this time it should be dying down, which will lead to a lot of pollen when spring fully hits.” 

Bassett said pollen counts have been increasing over the years, which may be one of the reasons why people with allergies are seeking their allergists sooner than usual.

“Last year was one for the record books, but this year we’ve seen a lot of patients and the number is continuously rising,” said Dr. Brian Rotskoff, president of Chicago’s Clarity Allergy Center.

Pollen, mold spores and other airborne allergens contribute to nasal allergies in the spring. With the changing climate, people can expect allergy season to last longer this year.

“Due to tree season starting so late, I think [the allergy season] will last a little longer,” said North Aurora allergist and immunologist Dr. Sakina Bajowala. “ There may be an overlap of tree and grass season in the spring. And for the people who are allergic to both, it can be a difficult time for them in May.”

While there is no way to evade all allergens, experts suggest the following steps to lessen symptoms:

•Change clothes. Pollen tends to stick to clothes, so change clothes that have been worn outside.

 
•Keep windows closed. When the pollens count is at its peak, close all windows to keep pollen from entering.

 
•Talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help determine what type of pollen triggers your allergies. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter drugs and prescriptions to treat symptoms.