Parents (USA)

Health News

The connection between climate change and allergies and what to do about it; tips on safe headphone use for kids; a happy finding about new babies, and more

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As the planet warms, the growing seasons for allergenic plants have lengthened, resulting in longer allergy seasons, explains Parents advisor Aaron Bernstein, M.D., M.P.H. An increase in carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels is also providing more carbon dioxide for plants to absorb, causing them to produce 20 percent more pollen than in 1990. But there are actions you can take to protect your child’s health.

PLANT SMARTER. “Make sure you’re not growing allergenic plants such as oak, juniper, and birch trees,” says Dr. Bernstein, interim director of Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environmen­t. Growing hypoallerg­enic plants like coral bells and smooth hydrangeas can help reduce pollen exposure. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (aaaai.org) has guides for selecting plants.

REMOVE PROBLEM PLANTS.

It can also help to get together with neighbors to eliminate allergenic plants in your yards and neighborho­od. Allergenic trees and shrubs can be simple to tackle in one go. Ragweed is also a major pollen producer. (Careful: It looks a lot like goldenrod, which is nonallerge­nic and worth keeping.) It tends to be widespread and harder to manage, but even taking out some can make playtime more comfortabl­e. Instead of using harmful herbicides, Dr. Bernstein suggests pulling up allergenic plants before they flower.

MAKE YOUR HOME AN OASIS. Pollen isn’t the only irritant your child may be fighting. “As parents, we may not be able to reduce some air pollution because it’s coming from nearby roadways, power plants, or factories, but we can focus on indoor pollutants,” Dr. Bernstein says. Air fresheners, scented cleaning products, and incense can all upset little lungs. CULTIVATE CHANGE. Let your representa­tives and city council members know that urban green spaces and other eco-forward measures are important to you. Our kids’ health is a great motivation to advocate for healthier communitie­s.

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