From record rainfall in California to the recent Colorado cyclone (96 mph wind speeds) – there has been no lack of extreme weather conditions in recent months, wreaking havoc on the global ecosystem. And unfortunately, for allergy sufferers, you can now add the increasing pollen count to the growing list of environmental consequences.
And it's not just speculation – climate change is making the allergy season longer and more severe.
"Because of climate change, trees are pollinating ever earlier," said Dr. David Rosenstreich, director of the allergy and immunology division at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine and Montifore Medical Center, PEOPLE. "It used to be in the Northeast that the last week of February was the start of allergies in the spring, but now you can start detecting pollen in early February. It's been several weeks before.
Experts say that several environmental factors are contributing to the increase of pollen. One is the increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, caused in part by the burning of fossil fuels.
"Plants are growing and pollinating more because of this," says Rosenstreich. "People do not understand that trees can be pollinating even if there is snow on the ground."
The additional CO 2 strengthens the particular herbs, which have now also emerged in California, an area that used to be free of the tall pollen plant.
Another cause is the warmer temperatures, which also cause allergenic plants such as oak and elm – the main attackers of spring allergies – to sprout earlier in the year. Between 1995 and 2015, warmer temperatures extended the allergy season by 6 to 21 days, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency.
And city dwellers with allergies are at a more difficult time – climate change can increase air pollution, which in turn increases pollen production and strength, and can cause more severe asthma attacks.
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So, what sufferers of allergy? In addition to making changes to help the environment, such as reducing plastic use, choosing public transportation and finding alternative energy sources, Rosenstreich says it will overcome the allergy season.
"As soon as you have any symptoms, take your medication. They are antihistamines and work much better to prevent allergies than to treat allergies. "
He also recommends staying home in the morning when the pollen count is higher. "If you want to run or work out, you should do it in the afternoon or at night," he says.
And it's also worth shaking off your clothes after going outside and taking a shower to rinse the pollen.
"The spring allergy season has begun," says Rosenstreich, "but there are things you can do."