Whether you’ve had allergies for ages or are just starting to develop symptoms, it can feel like allergy season is getting worse every year. It’s not just about you – experts say that climate change is leading to a number of factors that increase the risk of not only developing allergy symptoms, but of experiencing them yourself intensive signs of allergies.
“Climate change isn’t going away, allergies aren’t going away, and it just seems to be getting worse every year,” said Dr. Tania ElliotAllergist, immunologist and chief physician nectar allergy, tells Yahoo Life. There are several reasons why climate change is making your allergies worse. Experts break it down.
Allergy season is longer than ever
You’ve probably heard people complain for years that allergy symptoms are getting worse every year, and there’s a good reason for that. “Climate change is leading to longer and more intense allergy seasons,” Kenneth MendezPresident and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, tells Yahoo Life. “In fact, allergy seasons have lengthened by almost 20 days over the past 30 years.”
Traditionally, allergy seasons have been in spring and fall, but they now extend to even longer periods. “In the fall allergy season, we’re actually seeing it transition into what we would formerly call the winter months,” says Elliott. “People who suffer from a fall allergy suffer for a longer period of time.” Some could have symptoms through November and December, she says.
Air pollution is getting worse
studies have linked air pollution to more severe symptoms, and unfortunately this is also the case with air pollution become worsethanks to factors such as wildfires and higher temperatures leading to smog.
“Pollution is a major factor in seasonal allergies,” says Elliott. “Pollen can actually bind to pollutants in the air.” As an example, she cites: Pollen and diesel exhaust can create a “super pollen” that can stay in the air longer and travel further. “Pollen can now travel 50 to 100 miles,” says Elliott. “That means you end up having more symptoms no matter where you live.”
The temperatures are rising
July was that of the world hottest month on record, and it is not an isolated case. The temperatures were steadily increasing for years. “Climate change affects geographical areas differently,” said Dr. Purvi ParikhAllergist and immunologist at the Allergy and Asthma Network, tells Yahoo Life. “Areas that used to have milder allergy seasons are now having much more severe allergy seasons due to rising temperatures or extreme weather conditions.”
Urban areas can also form so-called “urban heat islands,” where the average temperature is about three to four degrees higher than non-urban areas, Mendez says. “This will make it even warmer, so allergy season will start much earlier. There is extra carbon dioxide and ozone, which speeds up the release of pollen. Because of these urban heat islands, people in cities are actually feeling more intense allergy seasons.”
Extreme weather conditions are common
Climate change is leading to extreme weather conditions, including skyrocketing temperatures, wildfires and floods. “We’re seeing more and more extreme weather conditions,” says Elliott. “There’s also more heatwaves and wildfires — now we’re talking about more air pollution.”
Fall is prime time for mold from leaves falling from trees — and high winds and hurricanes can kick up that mold, triggering asthma and allergies in the process, Mendez says.
What to do about it?
You don’t have to endure allergy season in silence. Experts say there are some things you can do to get relief even if you’re exposed to more allergens.
Take your medication on time. “If you know a certain time of year is bad for you, I always recommend my patients start taking preventive medications early,” says Parikh. For example, if you have a fall allergy, Elliott recommends starting medication in early August.
Know how long it takes for your medication to work. Different types of drugs have different mechanisms of action. “The most important thing is that the nasal steroid sprays take about five to seven days to work and they prevent allergy symptoms from occurring,” says Elliott. “Antihistamines work within 12 to 24 hours.”
Watch your time outdoors. If your allergens are outside, Parikh recommends avoiding outdoor exercise during the pollen peak season, which includes early morning. You also risk bringing these allergens indoors if you’ve been outdoors, Elliott says. “You want to make sure you change your clothes as soon as you enter the house,” she says. “Don’t wear shoes indoors, and if possible shower at night to wash off any pollen that may have gotten into your hair.”
Close your windows. When you open your windows, pollen and other allergens enter your home where they can make you uncomfortable. So keep your windows closed and run the air conditioner instead.
Reconsider using hairspray. “Hairspray can actually cause pollen to stick to your hair,” says Elliott. “You want to make sure you wash up instead of getting all the pollen in your home or in your bed.”
If you’re struggling with allergy symptoms, experts say it’s important to talk to your doctor about next steps. You may need to take allergy medication — or adjust your existing allergy treatment plan.