Climate change is causing longer allergy seasons, research finds

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Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Is Climate change to blame for longer allergy seasons?
Researchers found trees and plants are producing pollen sooner due to warmer weather starting earlier in the year.

Are you one of the millions suffering from seasonal allergies and feel like the pollen seasons are getting longer and longer every year?

New research from Harvard shows you may be right.

Researchers found trees and plants are producing pollen sooner due to warmer weather starting earlier in the year.

UNC Health Allergist and Professor of Medicine, Dr. Edwin Kim says a longer season for patients is the trend in his practice.

"Absolutely, it's been over the last probably five-plus years," Kim said. "We've been seeing folks coming earlier and earlier, when we used to think of that pollen season being the worst in March. Now, really we're having patients coming to us not even at the end of February, but even sometimes in the middle of February.

Kim says while May is late in the pollen season, it isn't too late to try to get allergies under control, however, it can be more difficult to get a late start to treatment.

"I don't want to say too late, but, it's definitely much harder if you start in May," Kim added.

"Really, I think the trick is knowing when your season is and trying to get on top of the symptoms before they can actually get that bad. And, so, in the case of the spring tree pollen, trying to get those medications on board in early or mid-February before the symptoms can get really bad is probably going to be your best bet."

When it comes to treating symptoms at home, Kim says some patients feel they need to change up over-the-counter options like nasal sprays or antihistamines more frequently due to longer symptoms.

"What we notice with sprays for sure being a steroid. I know some folks have been very worried about whether you can use too much of that can there be side effects?" Kim explained.

"One nice thing is that these medicines are designed to stay in your nose and not go to the rest of your body. So generally speaking, I don't see a lot of side effects from using it even year-round. The same goes for Claritin and similar antihistamines, like Allegra or Zyrtec. Some people do feel like they stop working as well if they use one for a while and they'll switch between them. But I don't see any harm in using them every day. If that's really what your symptoms need."

Kim says the best practice is getting on top of symptoms early and identifying which allergen is causing your symptoms to help map out a year-round treatment plan with a health care provider.

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