Climate change will make spring hell for Northeast allergy sufferers, study says

“Itchy water eyes, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, shortness of breath, scratchy throat, congestion…”

That is what Brooklynite Amy Grech, 49, experiences with the first plant buds of spring, and she said since she was 14 years old, her allergies have worsened in severity as well as lengthened in duration.

“My eyes will get really red. You would think that I was high, ”said Grech, who spent the worst days of allergy season indoors with the windows shut. “Every day I’m doing this saline nose spray; the Zaditor [eye drops] first thing when I wake up; allergy pill right after breakfast; Nose spray throughout the day. ”

For Grech and many other spring allergy sufferers, spring life will not get any better, according to a new study that found a strong link between climate change and pollen production. In the warmer, wetter future with rising levels of carbon dioxide, these discharged microscopic grains from the male parts of flowers will not only significantly increase, but their production will be extended by weeks. The scientists behind the study predict allergy season will lengthen as a result, intensifying sensitivities to pollen and symptoms.

The study based its analysis on pollen levels collected from about 100 rooftop monitoring stations around the country via the National Allergy Bureau. This database looks at the 13 plants most likely to produce wind-carried pollen, a mixture of everything from tall birches and conifers down to flowering weeds, which account for 77% of the total pollen counts nationwide. (New Yorkers can look up readings from these stations in real-time. According to the most recent reading, March 17th, for the pollen station located at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, tree pollen is moderate.)

Patterns from this dataset were coupled with future climate model projections and historical data of regional precipitation and temperatures to develop a forecasting tool for predicting pollen emissions across the nation. According to study author Allison Steiner, it’s data people can use to plan ahead depending on the daily pollen concentrations.

Of the three climate factors the study analyzed, temperature was a big influence. Warmer weather can cause trees to begin flowering early, releasing pollen sooner. These temperatures can make plants more productive and increase the amount of pollen released into the air.

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