Updated: Aug 3
The world has long been aware of the existential potential of climate change. From rising water levels to hurricanes to wildfire, its effects are well-known, numerous, and massive. However, there exists a less renowned one that nevertheless will have disastrous impacts on the human health if it is not checked: allergies.
A study by the National Wildlife Federation found that climate change affects allergies in a number of ways. The increase in temperature prolongs the temporal seasons of spring and summer, during which pollen is most widespread. This increase in pollen would worsen allergies for many and also increase the likelihood of asthma attacks.
Ragweed is a seemingly innocent plant. However, it is the source of a pollen that often induces hay fever, the source of 13.1 million visits to the doctor’s office and $700 million lost annually, as of 2010. With the surplus of carbon dioxide that is at the root of climate change, ragweed grows far more: however, even aside from an increase in the prevalence of ragweed, its effects may intensify as a result of the CO2. While most pollen comes from plants that bloom in the spring and summer, ragweed thrives in fall, making the worsening of allergies a nearly year-long phenomenon.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, those that suffer from food allergies are often times more likely to be affected by environmental allergies as well. Many victims of food allergies have been found to react similarly to corresponding environmental allergens said to be cross-reactive. As for those with asthma, as mentioned by the Wildlife Federation study, the worsening air quality that comes as a result of pollution compounds the adverse effects of climate change on their condition.
Unfortunately, this being an impact of climate change, there is not much to be done in terms of isolating this issue and solving it without surmounting the arduous obstacle of climate change. However, homeowners could landscape to reduce the number of pollen-producing plants, in order to combat the increase in pollen created per plant. Furthermore, as stated by Stanford Healthcare, allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy can reduce the severity of both environmental allergies and oral ones that are cross-reactive.