The spring allergy season is hitting much of the country especially hard — and researchers are blaming climate change for more intense pollen counts.
There’s been a spike in the number of people suffering seasonal allergies, also called hay fever or allergic rhinitis, for the first time, and people in the northeast and south are getting the worst of it, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Not only are more people experiencing the symptoms of burning, itchy eyes and runny nose or congestion, allergy seasons overall — including spring and fall — are lasting as much as 27 days longer than in the past.
Warmer, wetter winters may be one reason why. Rising temperatures, changes in worldwide weather patterns and increasing airborne pollen levels for a longer period of time can even affect the healthy; for those with a family history of allergies, the result is a more intense allergic reaction, according to a recently released report by the academy.
“Some research has suggested that the warming trend that we have in our environment is causing the pollen seasons to start a little bit earlier, and extend a little bit longer,” said Dr. Stanley Fineman, former president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “Consequently, patients are suffering because they’re exposed to pollen, for longer periods of time.”
Millions of Americans are experiencing what allergist Dr. Clifford Bassett calls an “allergy explosion.”
“Climate change, globalization, air pollution, and over-sanitization of the environment in the early years of life are just a few of the causes that, taken together, have introduced new germs into our environment are causing needless suffering.” said Bassett, medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York.
Currently, oak, maple, and birch trees — the “big bad” pollen makers — are producing the powdery substance at higher rates simultaneously with poplar, alder and ash. Other allergic triggers include, fragrant flowers and flowering weeds, like dandelions.
The tree pollen storm was captured earlier this week by a New Jersey man in a video post on Facebook that has been viewed more than 4 million times. In the video, Eric Henderson of Millville, New Jersey taps a large tree with his frontloader and the pollen explodes in an ominous greenish-yellow cloud.