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Climate change is making allergy season longer and more severe

Climate change is making allergy season more miserable, according to new research focused on how climate change impacts human health and wellbeing.

The weather extremes prompted by a changing climate coupled with overall rising temperatures are affecting the seasons.

Researchers from the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health reviewed survey data from over 300,000 people between 2002 and 2013.

Next, the researchers combined the allergy data with satellite data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to identify how allergy burden was influenced by when spring started across the US.

The results, published in the journal PLOS ONE, show that in the US, allergies increase when the season changes earlier or later than normal.

“We found that areas where the onset of spring was earlier than normal had 14% higher prevalence of hay fever,” said Amir Sapkota, a member of the research team. “Surprisingly, we also found similar risk in areas where the onset of spring was much later than what is typical for that geographic location.

The study is the first of its kind to provide national-level quantitative data proving that climate change impacts the allergic disease burden.

Hay fever affects 25 million adults in the US every year, and so understanding how climate change impacts seasonal allergies is important to help lessen the disease burden and lower related medical costs.

When spring comes early, it increases the length of pollen season, and when spring comes late, a sudden burst in flowering and budding increases the amount of pollen allergy sufferers are suddenly exposed to.

“We show that such climate change-driven ecological changes are directly linked to allergic disease burden in the United States,” said Dr. Chengsheng Jiang, a co-author of the paper. “Even a relatively small change in the timing of tree flowering can have a significant economic impact given that 25 million American adults already suffer from hay fever each year.”

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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