Effect of Climate Change on Allergies
You hear a lot about climate change these days—rising oceans, disappearing ice caps, bleached coral reefs…the list seems endless. But it’s not just environmental issues that result from these changes, your health can be affected too. If you’ve noticed lately that your allergies start earlier in the year or drag on for longer, or you’ve suddenly succumbed to allergies you’ve never suffered from before, that may be a direct result of climate change. As temperatures rise, allergy seasons lengthen by an average of 11 to 27 days and air pollution worsens, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
So, what exactly is it about rising temperatures that contributes to allergy symptoms? According to Charles W. Schmidt, “When exposed to warmer temperatures and higher levels of CO2, plants grow more vigorously and produce more pollen than they otherwise would.” Longer periods of warm weather provide the right environment for plants to keep releasing pollen long after they normally would. But why does pollen affect us so violently? Our bodies register what’s called a protein sequence when the pollen enters. Because pollen’s protein sequence is similar to that of a parasite, your body creates an immune reaction in an effort to expel the perceived attacker.
And it’s not only those who currently suffer from allergies that are at risk—even those lucky few who have successfully escaped allergies thus far are at risk of succumbing to the seasonal disrupters. The longer an individual is exposed to an allergen, the higher the chance they will eventually become sensitized to it.
So, what about honey?
You may have heard that consuming local honey is a good natural remedy because it contains pollen. This would be a great option—but unfortunately the sneeze-inducing pollen which you so vehemently despise doesn’t come from flowers. During the spring, pollen is primarily generated by trees, summertime sees a rise in grass pollen, and fall gives way to pollinating weeds, ragweed in particular. And while bees do spread pollen, they actually make their honey out of nectar, not pollen. The pollen simply sticks to their legs as they travel from flower to flower and that’s how they end up helping with pollination. In regards to you allergy sufferers, bees won’t be the source of your relief; any pollen grains that may accidentally end up in honey will be filtered out during the production process, long before it ever makes its way to a store shelf.
With honey out, is there a solid natural remedy for allergies?
In short, not really. Keep your windows closed, monitor pollen advisories, and avoid being outdoors between the hours of 5am and 10am, when pollen counts are at their highest. If that isn’t enough to combat your symptoms, seeing a doctor is the next best step. Your doctor will be able to advise whether a simple over-the-counter medication or prescription would be best for your unique case. There has been a rise in people sharing their “natural” remedies, but sometimes it’s best to receive a personalized plan of action from a medical professional.
It’s more than just pollen.
Pollen isn’t the only trigger for respiratory-related symptoms. Meet ozone, a pollutant gas whose increased levels in the atmosphere have been linked to an increase in respiratory issues and emergencies by several studies. Ozone levels have been shown to be a problem brought on by increasing emissions of CO2, methane, and nitrogen oxides—the same gases being blamed for the warming temperatures around the globe.
What can you do?
Individuals in highly polluted areas have, in some cases, resolved to wearing a face mask to keep from breathing in dirty air. But, as mentioned above, if you cannot avoid the triggers and your remedies aren’t working, a doctor is always going to be your best bet to control symptoms.
Don’t let a snoring partner ruin your vacation! Check out this blog to learn how you can get peaceful, quality sleep on vacation (even when your partner sounds like a lawnmower). You can also take a look at the Pasha Travel Guide to see this year’s top 12 travel destinations, and learn tips for traveling allergy-free. This week, we’re featuring Muskoka, Ontario, Canada and covering allergens to watch out for, fun activities to do while you’re there, and important medicine restrictions for travelers. Follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for more updates!