Climate Change Leads to Long, Tough Allergy Season

By: Jessica Cunnington Email
By: Jessica Cunnington Email

April 8, 2013

Spring is here but that brings allergy season and suffering for millions of people.

As trees and flowers come back to life, that means sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes for people who have seasonal allergies.

"When you have to keep getting up to get tissues every two minutes and take all of these allergy medicines it's kind of a drag after a while," said Elaina Wood, a Monticello High School student.

"Spring is kind of the worst for me. I have lot of congestion, post-nasal drip and all of that fun stuff that makes your head feel big," said Lauren Baker, a member of the UVa Women's Rowing team.

More than 50 million Americans have allergies and doctors have recently seen an increase due to climate change and warmer temperatures.

"Patients who had relatively minor symptoms before or just not bad enough to see a specialist, were probably take some over the counter medication. And that's not sufficient to control their symptoms anymore," said Dr. Arvind Madaan, Allergist and Immunologist at Charlottesville Allergy and Respiratory Enterprises.

"The changes in climate that are happening are resulting in early onset of pollen season, longer lasting pollen seasons and changes in the distribution as well as the frequency," Madaan says.

Trees and flowers have to adapt to the changes and part of that process is shedding more pollen. Madaan says data shows this trend is only going to get worse.

"From here up until 2020, the pollen count is supposed to go up 30%."

And it's much more than just a stuffy nose, he says only the people who do suffer from allergies will know just how much it affects their quality of life.

"When you're all congested and you don't feel good, it just doesn't make you as happy as you could be. My friends without allergies can go out and do all of this stuff but when I'm outside and not really moving around, it just puts a damper on your mood," Wood said.

"It's not only the quality of life, as in your ability not to function or go out and do things but it does have an impact on your mood so the seasonal allergy and mood link is very real," Madaan said.

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