Grab a Tissue: Allergy Season Could Be Starting Early Due to Climate Change
Research shows climate change could have an impact on pollen season. Here's everything you need to know before the sniffles start.
Allergy season can typically last from late spring to early autumn—it's the price we pay for beautiful flowers and warmer temperatures. However, according to a recent report from Climate Central, allergy season is said to be earlier, longer, and worse—all due to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the report, spring's first leaves and blooms are coming weeks early in some parts of the United States. While beautiful, the early arrivals will have those with seasonal allergies reaching for the box of tissues.
This isn't anything new. Last year, a study published in Nature Communications found future allergy seasons in the U.S. could start up to 40 days earlier than usual as a result of the climate crisis. But how?
How Climate Change Is Impacting Allergy Season
Global warming refers to the heating of the Earth's surface. This happens when greenhouse gases, which mainly come from the burning of fossil fuels, get released and subsequently trapped in the atmosphere. And when the Earth's surface heats up, it can disturb Earth's current climate system. Enter climate change, a shift in the typical weather patterns our planet experiences.
We've already experienced some of the effects of climate change. Think more severe storms, hurricanes, typhoons, and even less-snowy winters. Now, research shows climate change could impact allergy season as we know it, leading to a major increase in the pollen count.
While pollen is important to ecosystems, biodiversity, and—of course—the bees, it's no secret that pollen can give many humans allergy symptoms. This includes a runny rose, sneezing, and itchy eyes.
Many people who have allergy symptoms only experience them in the warmer months, but it's possible that allergy season is going to begin a lot earlier than usual in the coming years.
According to past research, the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is leading to an increase in weather temperatures. And this could ultimately lead to an increase in annual pollen emissions—by as much as 40%. The data also suggests end-of-century pollen emissions could be up by 200%
Longer pollen seasons have already been observed in recent years, according to the research. And climate change is only making it longer and more intense.
While more data is needed to determine the relationship between carbon dioxide and pollen, the study notes that allergy season in the spring could start between 10 to 40 days earlier than usual. End of summer and early fall pollen emissions could last 5 to 15 days later. That means our allergy season is looking a lot longer than we're used to.
If the pollen count increases and allergy season gets longer, we could potentially see a public health issue. Currently, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 60 million Americans experience hay fever symptoms each year. An increase in pollen emissions could also impact those with asthma and other respiratory conditions.
How You Can Help
1. Adopt Sustainable Habits
Climate anxiety is known for bringing us down, but we can turn that fear into something positive. The most important thing you can do is live more sustainably—and that can be done in a number of ways. Generally, you'll want to decrease your carbon footprint.
You can travel more sustainably by taking public transportation or carpooling with others. You can also choose more plant-based meals and cut back on meat and dairy products. Learning to be a more conscious consumer is also a way to break old, unsustainable habits and learn more about the impact your lifestyle has on the environment.
2. Participate in Conservation Efforts
Pollen is more concentrated in areas that contain a lot more trees. And trees are also beneficial to the environment because when they perform photosynthesis, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replace it with oxygen. However, deforestation and industrialization are negatively impacting forest ecosystems, taking away trees the planet needs.
That's where you come in. You can participate in local reforestation and conservation efforts. Check out One Tree Planted to learn how you can get involved, or research local nature preserves.
3. Stay Informed and Get Involved
Educating yourself on the climate crisis is one of the most important things you can do to help. It may not seem like much, but learning about the current climate issue and how it impacts our planet and the life living on it can actually help you make changes as needed. Learning how your old habits may not be the best for the environment can help you adopt new, more sustainable ones.
Plus, staying informed also pushes you to get involved. Whether that means participating in conversation efforts, making individual lifestyle changes, or speaking up to local legislatures to express the need for climate legislation, you have a voice. And no matter how you choose to get involved, your voice will be heard.
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