It’s not just you, al­lergy sea­son is longer now

Cli­mate change length­en­ing spring

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY LAURA KELLY

For lo­cal nasal al­lergy suf­fer­ers, the damp, rainy weather over the past cou­ple of days has been a respite from high lev­els of tree and flower pollen.

But with tem­per­a­tures con­tin­u­ing to rise year to year, longer spells of warm weather mean in­creased pollen counts and a pro­longed al­lergy sea­son for the fu­ture.

“Wash­ing­ton, D.C., is one of many, many cities in the cen­tral and south­ern and east­ern U.S. that have one of their warmest years, starts to the year on record,” said Jonathan Erd­man, a senior me­te­o­rol­o­gist for The Weather Chan­nel.

Mr. Erd­man said the gen­eral con­sen­sus is that with a warm­ing cli­mate over the next sev­eral decades, pollen sea­son will lengthen across much of the coun­try.

“We get more car­bon diox­ide in the air that makes plants more ef­fi­cient at pro­duc­ing pollen and grow­ing faster,” he said. “This is just one of the things we’re go­ing to have to deal with go­ing for­ward.”

Re­searchers es­ti­mate that about 50 mil­lion peo­ple in the U.S. suf­fer from nasal al­ler­gies, which af­fect as many as 30 per­cent of adults and 40 per­cent of chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to the Asthma and Al­lergy Foun­da­tion of Amer­ica.

Pollen from bloom­ing trees — par­tic­u­larly birch, oak and cedar — is the cul­prit for nasal al­ler­gies in the spring; rag­weed is the lead­ing con­trib­u­tor to hay fever in the fall.

Across the U.S., spring ar­rived about three weeks ear­lier than typ­i­cal, ac­cord­ing to data from the USA Na­tional Phenol­ogy Net­work, a re­search con­sor­tium on sea­sonal phe­nom­ena. And re­searchers are try­ing to eval­u­ate how warmer tem­per­a­tures and in­creased car­bon diox­ide lev­els af­fect the en­vi­ron­ment and hu­mans.

A 2010 re­port by the Na­tional Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion as­serted that “unchecked global warm­ing will worsen res­pi­ra­tory al­ler­gies,” more air­borne al­ler­gens will in­crease asthma at­tacks and poi­son ivy “grows faster and is more toxic” with in­creased lev­els of car­bon diox­ide.

Mean­while, sci­en­tists have recorded sta­bi­lized global emis­sions of car­bon diox­ide be­tween 2013 and 2015 — a promis­ing trend, con­sid­er­ing that CO2 lev­els in 2013 sur­passed 400 parts per mil­lion, the high­est amount ever recorded by the Mauna Loa Ob­ser­va­tory since 1958.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion counted 20 mil­lion Amer­i­cans over the past year di­ag­nosed with rhini­tis, or hay fever, our bod­ies’ re­jec­tion of pollen in the air.

Symp­toms in­clude sneez­ing, runny nose and red, wa­tery eyes — a nui­sance for many, but they can de­velop into se­ri­ous res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions for an un­lucky few, es­pe­cially chil­dren. The CDC counted 7.4 mil­lion chil­dren with res­pi­ra­tory al­ler­gies in the past 12 months. And data from the Na­tional Health Sur­vey from 1997 to 2011 show that res­pi­ra­tory al­ler­gies are the most com­mon type of al­lergy among chil­dren.

For Dr. Sa­man­tha Ah­doot, a pe­di­a­tri­cian in Alexandria, Vir­ginia, it’s not the uptick in new al­lergy cases that wor­ries her but the in­creased sever­ity of al­ler­gies in pa­tients she al­ready sees. She has no­ticed a trend in her pa­tients need­ing mul­ti­ple med­i­ca­tions to con­trol their symp­toms.

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