According to a recent study, the U.S. pollen count is higher than ever and continues to rise, thanks to climate change. This is unfortunate news for everyone, especially those who deal with asthma and seasonal allergies. Today, we will discuss the connection between human-caused climate change and pollen count, and the actions you can take to protect yourself and the environment.
Seasonal Allergies & Pollen
Every season is unique, each having its pros and cons. Spring, in particular, is a favorite for many, bringing warmth and regrowth after what feels like an endless winter. However, it has also become a season that some dread with each passing day. Why? Two words - seasonal allergies. Sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes, and more sneezing. Every spring, millions of people are plagued with the discomfort of seasonal allergies. This discomfort is exacerbated by seasonal allergens, one of the most common being pollen. By definition, pollen is a powdery substance produced by seed plants. It consists of pollen grains, which are released into the wind in order to fertilize other plants. As the pollen travels, it often finds its way into your eyes, nose, and lungs, causing allergic reactions for those with pollen sensitivities. While pollen typically makes a regular appearance every spring, climate change seems to be making matters even worse. Studies show that human-caused climate change is shown to contribute to longer, more intense pollen seasons.
Allergy Season has Been Extended (and Intensified), Thanks CO2
According to a recent study, the data suggests that human-caused warming is directly correlated with longer pollen seasons across North America between 1990 to 2018. Not only are springtime temperatures being pushed out longer, but they are also creeping up earlier in the year than what is typically seen.
What does this mean and why does it matter?
As we mentioned earlier, springtime is a season of warmth and regrowth. The warmer temperatures promote a thriving growing season, which is typically a wonderful thing. However, over time, human-caused warming creates heightened carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, which have been shown to promote extensive plant growth. As the growing season flourishes, this creates an even higher than normal pollen count. Thus, not only are we seeing an extension in our pollen season, but we are also seeing it intensify. According to a recent study, if CO2 emissions continue to increase, paired with the warmer climate, the U.S. could see a 200% increase in pollen production by the end of the century.
Who is at Risk?
Who exactly do these findings impact? According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, “Every American’s health is at risk. But some populations are at an even greater risk. This includes infants, children, seniors, pregnant women, low-income communities, communities of color, people with disabilities, and many people with chronic diseases like asthma.”
One particularly high-risk group listed above are those with asthma, especially allergic asthma. The AAFA reports that “more than 25 million people in the U.S. have asthma, and allergic asthma is the most common type, affecting around 60% of people with asthma.” If you have allergic asthma, this means that everyday allergens can actually trigger your asthma symptoms. Longer and more intense pollen seasons can be detrimental to the respiratory health of these individuals, as well as many others who face the burden of seasonal allergies.
What Can We Do to Protect Ourselves Against Increased Pollen Exposure?
So you may be wondering, what can I do to help protect myself against these elevated pollen levels? Here are some helpful tips and tricks you can use to help protect yourself and your loved ones:
- Stay informed and up-to-date. Reports such as the Allergy Capitals™ report was designed to help people recognize, prevent, and manage seasonal allergies. This report shows the top 100 largest cities in the U.S., which are ranked based on how challenging it is to live with pollen allergies. You can also check the specific pollen levels in your area to plan your outdoor activities accordingly.
- Use proper air filtration. Although airborne particles (such as pollen) are elevated during certain seasons (such as spring), this particle pollution can linger in your home and air ducts all year long. Be sure to use a high-quality AC filter to help filter out any pollen that you may be accidentally tracking into your home.
- Keep windows closed during pollen season. Although it may be tempting to open up your windows on a sunny spring day, you are risking letting in tons of airborne particles if you do. Unfortunately, pollen can sneak through screens, but there are products such as AllergyGuard® Window Screens, which can filter out particles as small as 250 nanometers. Window shields will allow fresh air in while keeping pollen out.
- Wash off after outdoor activities. Even when pollen counts are lower, there is still a chance that traces of pollen have fallen onto your hair, body, and clothing. Once you finish your outdoor activities, it is important to take a hot shower to remove any residual pollen or other allergens.
- Keep your clothing and bedding free and clear of allergens. It is essential, especially during allergy season, to wash your bedding regularly (at least once a week). Additionally, be sure to wash your clothes after outdoor activities. Here is a list of the best laundry detergents for seasonal allergies.
- Look into options to help alleviate your allergy symptoms. It is pretty difficult to completely avoid allergens like pollen altogether. If you have debilitating seasonal allergies, try looking for medications that may help alleviate these symptoms. Here is a list of the 10 best OTC allergy medicines of 2022. There are also more natural remedies, such as WishGarden Herbs' Kick-Ass Allergy Seasonal Rescue, which supports a healthy immune and histamine response to seasonal stressors, such as pollen.
How Can We Help to Reduce CO2 Emissions?
One of the biggest culprits of this pollen issue is the increasing amount of CO2 emissions that are continuing to rise each year. Here is a list of some easy ways you can reduce your carbon footprint:
- Go solar. Using solar panels is an eco-friendly energy option to help easily reduce your carbon footprint.
- Go electric. High mileage doesn’t always mean low CO2 emissions. Opting for an electric vehicle will eliminate your CO2 emissions completely.
- Walk or ride your bicycle when possible. When traveling to nearby locations, opt for a greener way to travel, either by foot or bike.
- Turn off your lights. Switch lights off when you leave the room and unplug your electronic devices when they are not in use.
- Watch your water usage. Lower the amount of energy used to pump, treat, and heat water. Pay attention to how often you wash your car, do your laundry, run the dishwasher, run baths/showers, etc. Try to find ways to be more efficient with your water usage when possible.
- Lower your thermostat in winter and raise it in summer. Instead of relying on the A.C. in the summer, opt for fans, which require less energy.
- Reuse and recycle. This is probably one of the most actionable and simplest ways to reduce your carbon footprint on this list. Today, most communities have both trash and recycling pick-ups. All you need to do is to make sure you are separating out the recyclable from the non-recyclable items. You can also do small (but effective) things such as utilizing reusable bags at the grocery store, using glass or metal straws and reusing glass or silicone containers.
- Purchase products from eco-friendly, sustainable companies. In today’s day and age, sustainability has gained increased attention, and many companies are doing their part to make it even easier for their customers to help the planet.
Nespresso® promotes recycling your capsules so that they can have a second life as new products. The coffee grounds inside each recycled capsule are composted into nutrient-rich topsoil.
The AIRTEVA® furnace filter is a sustainable and eco-friendly furnace filter option. Made with a 100% aluminum filter frame, you can reuse your frame for the life of your A.C. unit. No cardboard means less waste and more trees.
Conclusion: Climate Change Continues to Raise Pollen Count
Over the past several years, the pollen count has been on a steady uptick and is projected to get exponentially worse. Several studies have shown a clear link between increased human-caused CO2 emissions and the longer, more intense pollen seasons we have been experiencing. Human-caused warming is bringing about longer growing seasons, causing a longer allergy season. On top of that, CO2 emissions also promote plant growth, leading to an elevated pollen count, which intensifies the impact on our respiratory health. These health impacts can be especially harmful to high-risk groups, such as low-income communities and those with allergic asthma.
Based on what we know today, it is crucial to take the steps outlined above to help protect yourself against increased exposure to pollen and other airborne toxins. It is also essential to analyze your carbon footprint and evaluate the actions you can take to make a positive difference. As research progresses, we hope to learn more about how to better prepare for these increased pollen levels and how we can manage the health implications.
How do you plan on reducing your carbon footprint? Let us know in the comments below!