If you feel like you’re going through hankies faster than ever, you’re not just imagining it. Climate change is making allergy season even worse, according to a new study.
Researchers concluded that pollen and planetary warming are closely tied in a study published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Allergy season is both beginning sooner and generating more pollen overall, thanks to a sneeze-inducing mixture of warmer air and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The study’s authors found that pollen season in North America now starts about 20 days earlier than it did in 1990 and produces about 21% more pollen. Research predicts that this trend will accelerate.
The study used attribution science techniques to estimate the degree to which wildfires, rainfall during hurricanes, and other extreme weather events are worse than they’d be if the planet wasn’t getting toastier. “It’s a great piece of work,” Kristie Ebi of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington said of the study. “There has been very little research on the application of detection and attribution analysis to the health risks of a changing climate.”
By examining data from 60 pollen-monitoring stations around the U.S., the researchers found the runniest noses and most watery eyes in Texas, the Southeast and the Midwest. Less pollen-driven mucous production was happening in the northern states. The greatest increase in pollen is coming from trees, not the more traditional culprits of grasses and weeds.
While a runny nose is annoying enough, allergies can have serious effects on public health. Asthma and respiratory diseases are life-threatening and can increase the severity of respiratory viruses like COVID-19.
Image via Magda Pawluczuk