Study finds climate change may worsen allergies


Image courtesy of WKAR.

By Genevieve Fox

Findings by researchers at the University of Michigan predict that warming temperatures may result in increased seasonal allergies.

The researchers used a prediction model to examine production changes in pollen through temperature. They put together climate data and socioeconomic scenarios, combined with modeling data from 1995 to 2014.

The study, published was led by Allison Steiner, a professor of atmosphere science.

“By the end of this century, the changing climate, coupled with higher atmospheric CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions, could increase pollen production by 200%,” Steiner said.

They also found that pollen emissions could begin 40 days earlier than normal, with allergy season lasting an additional 19 days. That’s in contrast with a normal allergy season that typically lasts 10 to 30 days.

With rising temperatures, Steiner said, trees will produce more pollen for a longer period of time.

And more pollen production for a longer period of time could also lead to increased allergies, she added.

“It might mean you have symptoms that stretch over a longer period of time or it could also potentially be that the higher pollen concentrations in the atmosphere lead to more intense symptoms.”

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 24 million people suffer from seasonal outdoor allergies. Symptoms include itching in the nose or throat, stuffy nose or, more seriously, potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis.

The best ways of lessening the problem are reducing emissions and spreading awareness so people can better manage their allergies, Steiner said.

Genevieve Fox’s story is brought to you as part of a partnership among WKAR, Capital News Service and MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.

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