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Scientists say climate change is making allergy season longer, more intense

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Posted at 11:22 AM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 13:22:16-04

The start of spring is the time of year when snow starts melting, weather starts warming up and allergies start flaring up.

“Pretty miserable,” Lexi Wilson said of her allergies. “You struggle to breathe in both your nose and your mouth.”

Wilson is like millions of Americans who struggle with allergies during the changing of seasons, which she feels have kicked in much sooner than before.

“It’s like starting when there’s snow on the ground, which is bizarre,” she said. “I feel like I usually have until April. It starts to get really, really bad, but it got bad mid-February this year.”

Researchers have discovered allergy season is starting earlier, lasting longer and the pollen count in the air is much more intense. They say the reason is climate change.

“Compared to about 30 years ago, pollen seasons are starting three weeks earlier and they’re lasting about a week and a half longer,” said William Anderegg, an assistant biology professor at the University of Utah. “There’s also about 20% more pollen in the air.”

Anderegg teamed up with scientists from across the country, examining data from the past 30 years. They found rising temperatures across the United States are increasing the amount of pollen in the air, which could trigger many health problems.

“It has impacts on asthma and sending people to the hospital asthma attacks,” he said.

Now, allergy experts are speaking out.

“With climate change, we can only assume that on a broader basis that that’s going to impact what we’re seeing clinically,” Jason Sigmon, MD, is with UCHealth.

He’s been an otolaryngologist for 20 years and has seen an increase of people suffering from allergies.

As climate change continues to make air quality worse, Sigmon says more adults could be at risk for severe asthma.

“Any individual with that allergic predisposition in asthma to prolonged or increased number of allergens, there’s no question that we are seeing or going to see more problems in managing those patients," he said.

For Wilson, those problems are already impacting her life.

“I have to use both an inhaler and nasal spray every day,” she said.

Wilson calls this study is an “eye-opener” and she’s now planning to cut down on her carbon footprint, which might also help with her allergies.

“It really makes you consider and see how climate impacts things on so many different levels,” she said.