climate in crisis

Warming Temperatures Causing Allergy Season to Arrive Earlier, More Severe

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There is new evidence to suggest that warming temperatures are causing allergy season to arrive earlier and be more severe. 

For 20 years, Bob Schwartz of San Jose has been battling the uncomfortable symptoms of allergies.

“You have a hard time breathing, you get all nasally and have a runny nose like a faucet,” he said, adding that he’s noticed that over the years, allergy season seems to be lasting longer.

Now, there is new evidence that allergy season is increasing in the Bay Area and researchers say climate change may be to blame.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Theodore Chu has used this special collector in Los Altos to measure and record pollen counts. Now, researchers at Stanford have analyzed his data from 2002-19.

“The number of weeks in which pollens are active is going up,” said Bibek Paudel, post doctoral researcher at Stanford School of Medicine. “If it was three months, now it is four to five months and maybe in time with a change in climate, there may be a time when half the year is impacted by pollens.”

As Dr. Jeff Demain of the University of Washington explains to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, it’s a trend scientists are seeing throughout the United States. 

“We are seeing seasons, especially in northern latitudes, are up to 27 days longer than they were just seven to 10 years ago,” said Demain. 

And that's not the only impact

Studies show changing climate from increased carbon dioxide levels are also fueling an increase in plant and flower growth. The result? More pollen production.

In the Bay Area, researchers have specifically seen an increase in tree and weed pollen.

San Jose allergist Dr. Chu says he expects more people will be impacted.

“With the pollen counts going up you’ll have more and more allergies and asthma,” he said.

“Now we have a situation where we have longer seasons, more pollen production and the pollens released are more allergenic so the combination is becoming troublesome,” said Demain.

Especially troublesome for people like Schwartz who said, “I don't want it to get longer. I want to be able to breathe.”

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