If you believe your summer and fall allergies are actually getting worse, you are probably correct. For a quick explanation, good old global warming and overproduction of greenhouse gases may be the cause. More than 40 million allergy sufferers in the U.S. have seasonal and year-round allergies. Studies show that plant pollen production such as ragweed (season starts mid-August) and spring tree pollens go way up as a result of exposure to carbon dioxide, a major contributor in greenhouse gases.
Plant ecologist Lewis Ziska with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is a pioneer in studying allergies and climate change. The warmer temperatures are also having an effect even in Alaska, leading to a possible increase in pollen and mold allergies as well as stinging insects. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a leading authority on effects of global warming) as well as the U.S. EPA cites an increase in allergic reactions.
Data from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology show that one ragweed plant can produce 1 billion pesky pollen grains that wreak misery to those sufferers. So if you magnify this number by two to four times you have a "mega-pollen burst"! Pollens grains may also travel up to 400 miles leaving almost no location untouched.
Be prepared and develop a sound survival plan_
• Pre-treat with your prescribed allergy medications before exposure • Keep windows closed - this will reduce indoor pollen levels • Use the air conditioner unit - place on "do not recirculate" • Avoid certain foods that may aggravate those (about one-third of sufferers) with ragweed allergy such as bananas, melons, cucumbers, zucchini, chamomile tea, sunflower seeds and even echinacea • Shower nightly to remove excess pollen that accumulates in your hair, skin and eyelids • Take your summer vacation to an area where pollen levels are typically lower, such as a beach or lake • Consider moving outdoor activities or exercise indoors during high pollen times of the day, generally between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (even more so on "windy" days) • Check out your local pollen count at www.aaaai.org/nab
Global warming and greenhouse gases are here to stay, so sufferers let's make ourselves better prepared in living successfully with our less allergy friendly environment.
Dr. Clifford W. Bassett is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital and on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine. He is the current vice chair for public education committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. No information in this blog is intended as medical advice to any reader or intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.