If you’ve found that you’re having a particularly tough time breathing through this spring’s allergy season, you’re not alone. This season has been especially difficult throughout North America due to intense pollen production, and recent research has found that the problem may be linked to climate change. “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,” Dr. Stanley Fineman, former president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, told NBC News. “Consequently, patients are suffering because they’re exposed to pollen, for longer periods of time.”

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Pollen washes up on shore with rocks and plants

Winters that have been warmer and wetter than those in the past have combined with longer fall and spring seasons, contributing to an environment in which all manner of vegetation can produce greater amounts of pollen for longer periods of time. In North America, oak, maple, and birch trees are currently producing plentiful amounts of pollen, as are poplar, alder and ash trees. Weeds and flowers, like dandelions, also contribute to the allergy season.

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People are suffering from increased allergic symptoms because of the way we have dramatically altered the planet and our lifestyles. “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 allergens into our environment causing needless suffering,” medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York Dr. Clifford Bassett told NBC News. For those who are currently dealing with intense allergic symptoms or those who wish to avoid them, there are a few tips: use wraparound or large sunglasses to protect your eyes, wear a hat to prevent pollen from sticking to your hair, and choose your activities based on the weather report. Warm, dry, windy days typically have higher pollen counts than cloudy, wet days.

Via NBC News

Images via Depositphotos and John Douglas/Flickr