Climate change—a change in the makeup of the world’s atmosphere or in regional climate trends that extend beyond the natural changes to the climate as measured over time.
When climate change advocacy stepped onto centerstage in the 1990s, reactions varied. But today, the scientific community is largely united in their concerns over climate change and global warming.
Climate change has been associated with rising global temperatures and changes to the usual weather patterns—including the acceleration of extreme weather events such as intense rainfall and flooding, extreme heat and drought.
Since our bodies are inextricably connected to their environments, they are affected by these trends. Researchers are now connecting an increase in allergies in the past couple of decades to climate change.
Allergies on the Rise
Since 2000, pollen counts have been climbing. Based on these trends, scientists predict that by 2040, the pollen count will be double what it was in 2000. So what does climate change have to do with pollen counts? One aspect of climate change is that spring seems to be coming earlier and winter is coming later. This extends the growing season for pollinating trees, weeds and grasses.
A study of 60 pollen collecting sites in North America found that the pollen season is currently 20 days longer than it was in 1990. That’s nearly three more weeks of dealing with seasonal allergies! It’s also believed that greater warmth can accelerate the amount of pollen produced daily. So not only is the pollen season longer, it’s more intense.
Climate change is believed to be accelerated by our heavy reliance on fossil fuels—another catalyst for health problems. When we burn these fuels, it releases air pollutants and other particles that can exacerbate allergies and asthma.
What Can You Do?
It will take a worldwide effort to reduce climate change, but you can do your part in small ways:
To minimize your environmental footprint:
Recycle. When you recycle products that can be made into new products, you reduce the demand for virgin materials that must be extracted or mined. This, in turn, reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Recycling also keeps us from depleting more natural resources and creating more solid waste that will go to landfills.
Plant trees. Trees can improve the air quality so there will be less irritants that stir up allergies and asthma. Just make sure that you don’t plant an allergenic tree!
Walk or bike. It’s easy to hop in the car and rev up the engine every time you need to go somewhere, but that contributes to the carbon emissions that fuel climate change. If any of your trips can be made on foot or on a bicycle, choose those earth-friendly methods of travel. As a side benefit, you’ll get fresh air and exercise.
Carpool or use mass transit. Like walking or biking, ride sharing and public transportation get cars off the road and reduce carbon emissions.
Opt for renewable energy through electric cars, solar panels on your home or business, etc., and support government programs that encourage the wise use of renewable energy.
Though these efforts might seem small, if enough people join in, they can make a difference in the future.
But what about if your allergies and asthma are bad today? If you’re affected by seasonal allergies, you don’t want to deal with the congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes, or coughing one day more than you have to.
To minimize your allergies and asthma:
Your first step in the fight against allergies is to see your doctor. He or she can use an allergy test kit to measure your sensitivity to seasonal allergens. They can then prescribe treatment. If your allergies only affect you for a few months of the year, they may be able to prescribe medications to help you survive the worst of allergy season. But if your allergies are severe or more long-lasting (enduring for more than three months of the year), they may recommend allergy immunotherapy. While pills and nasal sprays can mask your allergy symptoms, only immunotherapy has been proven to reduce the underlying allergy itself.
Immunotherapy is available in different forms, including allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy) and allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy). At AllergyEasy, we prescribe sublingual (under-the-tongue) allergy drops because they are safer than shots. Because of this, they can be administered at home, which saves you from having to drive to the doctor’s office a couple of times per week for shots. (Bonus: This helps the environment, too!) The allergy drops can also be prescribed to people who may not be eligible for allergy shots, to include young children or those with severe asthma.
Allergies are at an all time high, and if current environmental challenges are not reined in, they will likely continue to get worse. At AllergyEasy, we believe the solution is a concerted effort to respect and protect the environment coupled with effective allergy treatment. Here’s to the health of both our planet and all who inhabit it!