Is global warming to blame for increased allergies?
By Pure Matters
There may be yet another problem resulting from global climate change: more sneezing and sniffling. Rising temperatures are increasing the pollen season for some plants and trees. As a result, people may be suffering more from seasonal allergies.
The increase in pollen may even be causing additional people who are susceptible to develop pollen allergies, says Renato Ariano, M.D., author of a new study on the topic. Ariano presented the findings in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Longer Pollen Season, More Allergy Problems
Dr. Ariano and his colleagues have been recording pollen counts, the length of pollen seasons, and the prevalence of people sensitive to five major pollens in an area of Italy on the Mediterranean Sea for nearly 30 years.
Between 1981 and 2007, the researchers noted an increasingly earlier start to the pollen season. During this same time, when researchers tested area residents for allergic reaction to five regional pollens, they found more and more people were sensitive to those pollens.
That makes sense to Estelle Levetin, a professor of biology at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, who says, "the data already show that pollen seasons could be longer and pollen levels could be higher." As a result, people with allergies may need to start taking allergy medications earlier and continue them longer, Levetin says.
Pollen allergy affects about one out of 10 Americans, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. For some, symptoms can be controlled by using over-the-counter medicine. Others may have serious reactions. Allergies can trigger or worsen asthma, and lead to health problems like sinus and ear infections.
Get Help for Your Allergy Symptoms
People with pollen allergies often notice a seasonal pattern to their symptoms, but some need allergy tests to discover that pollen is the source of the problem.
You should see your doctor you experience any of the following allergy problems:
- You are experiencing allergies for the first time
- Symptoms interfere with your daily life
- Over-the-counter allergy medications don't ease symptoms
- You experience allergy symptoms over a long period
- You feel your allergies are starting earlier in the season
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Tips for Tackling Seasonal Allergies
People with seasonal allergies should try to avoid pollen as much as possible and stay indoors when pollen levels are high. For example, ragweed pollen levels highest in the morning in late summer and early fall. Grass pollen levels are highest in evening in during spring and summer.
Sunny, windy days can be especially troublesome. Pay attention to the pollen count levels, which are often included in the local weather forecast.
Here are some other tips for dealing with seasonal allergies, especially on high pollen count days:
- Run an air conditioner and keep windows closed in the house.
- Avoid yard work and mowing grass.
- Wear a mask to filter pollen out of the air you breathe if you work outside.
Always consult your physician for more information.
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