The impact climate change can have on seasonal allergies

The impact climate change can have on seasonal allergies
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 5:22 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - More than 19 million Americans struggle with seasonal allergies. It is the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the United States.

Kaitlin Baker is a busy college graduate student who loves to take study breaks, but even a quick walk in the park used to cause complete misery.

“Just sneezing and sniffling and runny nose for about three hours,” Baker said.

No matter where she goes, she still does a quick pocket check -- does she have her tissues close by?

Dr. Kara Wada, an allergist and immunologist, said she’s busier than ever.

“We’re seeing the effects of climate change in patients every day,” Wada said.

Scientists said the time between first thaw in spring, when pollen emerges, and the fall freeze is much longer. That means plants have more time to give off more pollen.

“We see a little bit of a one-two punch, so to speak,” Wada said.

She said the environmental change impacts long-time sufferers and it’s leading to more people being diagnosed and seeking relief for the very first time.

First -- avoidance. Stay indoors if the pollen levels are high. If you do go outdoors, when you come back in, change your clothes and shower to remove pollen from your skin and hair.

Next -- medication. Take antihistamines a few weeks before the season starts to halt the body’s allergy response.

Finally -- immunotherapy, which is a series of allergy shots. Baker had immunotherapy to retain her immune system and she can now enjoy the outdoors again.

“It’s beautiful. I love looking at the blooms and the flowers.”

Wada also recommends allergy testing for patients who aren’t sure which allergens are causing their symptoms. Untreated allergies can progress into sinus infections and recurrent sinus infections can sometimes require surgery.

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