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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 climate change
Written by
Angelica Pizza
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

allergy season and climate change
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
, 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.

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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
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.