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The Changing Climate and Allergies

Posted on: 04/18/2012

by Emmanuel A. Quaidoo MD

Patients often wonder how changes in weather affect allergies. Common allergens such as pollen and mold flourish when the weather is warm. When warm days suddenly occur during winter, pollen and mold spores are released earlier than usual and die down when it gets cold again.  Allergy sufferers can become “primed” by such early exposure and when re-exposed as the weather warms again develop more severe symptoms than usual.

Studies have shown global warming has prolonged both the spring and fall pollen seasons in North America. Across the country spring arrives 10-14 days earlier than it did 20 years ago.  The distribution of some trees and other plants is shifting northward as temperatures get warmer. Thus depending on where you live, you may develop new allergen sensitivities.

Ragweed growth and pollen production have been found to increase with the higher amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere associated with global warming. Knowing how such trends in climate change impact your allergies allows you to better prepare to deal with your symptoms.

You should visit and work with your allergist to develop strategies to cope. Monitor pollen and mold counts and plan your daily outdoor activities accordingly.  Wearing a mask while mowing the lawn or doing other outdoor activities can help. You should shower and change clothes after being outdoors to reduce pollen exposure.  Allergen immunotherapy is highly effective if these and other avoidance measures or drug therapies are inadequate.

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