2019 is already shaping up to be a devastating year for allergy sufferers, and there is evidence to suggest that things could become even worse.
In a study featured in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, scientists have identified certain locations in the world that are typically affected by pollen swarms every year.
They found that a majority of these areas experienced a significant uptick in pollen count just as the average temperature of the Earth continued to increase.
This trend does not bode well for 50 million people living in the United States with seasonal allergies.
Why Are Pollen Counts Increasing?
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) believes there are three primary reasons why pollen counts in the air are increasing:
1. Rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels
With more CO2 making its way to the Earth's atmosphere, the more conducive the planet becomes to plant growth. While that may not seem like such a bad thing on the surface, more plants means more sources of highly allergenic pollen.
2. Increasing temperatures
The planet's continued warming is giving plants longer period to grow. This allows certain pollen-producing species more time to release their microscopic grains, which trigger various allergic reactions in people.
3. Longer spring season
Plants are also benefiting from the early start of spring in recent years. Tree pollen, which are known to cause hay fever, linger in the air for longer periods whenever the season gets extended.
These effects are just some of the consequences of climate change. If nothing is done to mitigate the impact of global warming, experts fear that allergy season will continue to worsen over the next few years.
Allergy Season In The United States
This year's allergy season is proving to be one of the toughest for Americans in recent history. Cities all over the country are experiencing record-high pollen counts, which have led to an early onset of allergy season.
In Atlanta, Georgia, allergy sufferers have begun flocking to their local medical facilities to find relief.
"I definitely think that we're seeing people earlier in the year when it comes to allergy symptoms," said Dr. Erinn Gardner, a physician at Atlanta Allergy and Asthma.
"With the increase in pollen counts people are suffering early earlier and as a result they come to our office looking for relief."
The same is also true for allergy patients in Tennessee.
Dr. Trent Ellenburg, an allergist and immunologist in Knoxville, said the warmer and milder weather combined with heavy rainfalls have caused people to be exposed to different allergens for longer periods. Sufferers are also exposed to a stronger form of pollen this season.
To help fight off the impacts of allergy season, experts recommend keeping windows close, especially at night, to prevent allergens from entering homes. People can use air conditioning to keep rooms well-ventilated, but they have to make sure that the air filters are always fresh.
It is a good idea to check the local Air Quality Index as well to find out whether a pollen swarm is about to hit the neighborhood. When stepping outside, it is advisable to wear an N95 face mask and a pair of sunglasses to stay protected from pollen and other irritants.
Allergy doctors are also trying out immunotherapy tablets as a potential alternative to allergy shots.