Watery eyes, sniffles, sneezes with a perpetually runny nose, coughing – these are all common symptoms you notice around you in Spring if you live in the US. The common cause? Allergies.
Seasonal allergies triggered by airborne pollen are one of the main chronic illnesses in the US. Pollen spheres are produced by the male reproductive organ (stamen) of a flowering plant. They are rich in protein which facilitates reproduction but also triggers allergic reactions in sensitized people. Scientists claim that with a rapidly changing climate, these allergies are only going to increase as time goes by.
Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping greenhouse gas emitted by burning coal, oil and other fossil-fuels. The resulting increase in the surface temperature of the Earth leads to global warming. The growth of plants and therefore the amount of pollen they produce is said to be directly proportional to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Trends suggest that the prevalence of Asthma, especially pollen and mold triggered, is on the rise.
Seasonal allergies in the US begin in Spring when trees like Oak, Birch and mountain Cedar begin to flower and disperse their pollen in South, North-East and Western states respectively. Early summer adds to allergies due to allergenic grasses and weeds such as nettle and mugwort flourishing. The ragweed season follows next, resulting in a prolonged pollen resurgence. Global warming is making these botanical entities grow faster and flower earlier thereby preempting the allergy season.
While allergies and asthma are two separate health conditions, there’s known to be a phenomenon, namely allergy-induced asthma, that links the two. Allergic reactions can affect the lungs and airways, leading to asthma symptoms. Climate change renders our air less healthy to breathe and poor air quality affects both allergies and asthma.
What can you do to avoid climate change related allergy & asthma?
1. Reduce exposure to air pollution & pollen
– Stay indoors in air-conditioned environments during air quality alerts and high pollen days
– Change the filters of your air conditioners regularly
– Come home and wash exposed skin and clothes if you’ve been outdoors as pollen can travel via skin and clothes
2. Reduce mold exposures
– Prevent mold by avoiding damp indoor environments. Fans, ACs & dehumidifiers help to dry out post rain leakages etc. thereby reducing the potential for cold formation
3. Seek medical help
– follow up with your physician if you have allergy or asthma symptoms
– Keep your inhaler handy at all times if you are an asthma patient