Climate Change is Making Allergy Season Worse
If you're sneezing your head off, your eyes sting and your throat is itchy, you don't need us to tell you that allergy season is here. But for more bad news: climate change makes allergy season much worse.
One-in-six Canadians suffer through this time of the year, and The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology estimates that as many as 38 per cent of people with allergic rhinitis may also have asthma. The number of allergy sufferers has grown. One-in-10 struggled with hay fever in 1970. Asthma has become more common as well.
Experts think that some of the blame falls on climate change. Warmer weather and higher carbon dioxide levels may help your garden grow but they spur pollen production as well. Climate change also makes the weather more erratic which in turn makes the pollen season less predictable.
"What we've seen in the past 10 years is a lengthening of the pollen seasons and an increase in the intensity of the pollen in the air," says Daniel Coates, director of marketing and business development at Aerobiology Research Laboratories, a company that monitors and forecasts pollen and spore levels across Canada. "Now we're seeing seasons starting anywhere from a week to four weeks earlier and potentially lasting longer." Last year the average allergy season length across Canada was 115 days.
The weather can also delay the allergy season or cut it short but that’s not necessarily a good thing either, as plants can make up for lost time by unloading more pollen, leading to heightened symptoms for allergy sufferers, including asthma attacks.
A 2017 Health Canada poll found that 79 percent of Canadians accept that climate change is happening; of those, just over half think it’s a health risk now and 40 percent agree it will be in the future. The truth is, climate change is already exacerbating pre-existing conditions and making otherwise healthy people sick.
You can help the spread of allergens in your home in a few ways...have your carpets steam cleaned to remove as many allergens embedded in your flooring as possible, and have your ducts cleaned regularly to keep allergens from circulating through your home.
There are some easy ways to fight against climate change. Reduce emissions by walking or biking; save energy in your home; reduce, reuse and recycle; eat a low-carbon diet; take action to save forests; demand sustainable measures in your community. We may not be able to reverse it, but we can slow it down by implementing these small actions that can result in big changes.