Are allergy seasons getting worse year after year?

Allergies & ENT

by David Weldon, MD

Jul 9, 2018

Springtime is marked by blooming flowers and hours of sunshine which, unfortunately for some, means runny noses and watery eyes. Seasonal allergies occur from pollen in the air, which is in full force this time of year.

Allergic reactions result when your body has an exaggerated response to a substance and attacks it as though it were a pathogen. Symptoms of allergies include sneezing, difficulty breathing, itchiness, watery eyes and rashes. The most common things people are allergic to are dust mites, molds, cedar, elm, oak, grasses and ragweed.

The percentage of the U.S. population allergic to rye grass and ragweed has doubled in recent years, according to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey study. Many allergists predict that the prevalence of some allergies will increase as much as 40 percent in a few decades.

But why is it that allergy season seems to be getting worse year after year?

Spring is starting earlier

Data from the International Phenology Gardens shows that there have been early flowering trends from 1959 to 1996. Gradually, the spring season seems to be starting earlier. The season also is lasting longer. With the weather becoming warmer sooner, plants take notice by pollinating earlier and for a longer period.

The increased levels of carbon dioxide in the air also have resulted in certain plants, such as ragweed, increasing the amount of pollen they produce.

Humidity is on the rise

Increased humidity in many parts of the world is another factor that plays into allergy seasons worsening each year. Research from Columbia University Earth Institute concludes that the rate of very humid days will occur at double that of high temperature days in about 50 years.

Humidity worsens allergies because it causes increased activity in the nasal mucous. Because most of the U.S. population lives within 100 miles of coastlines, many people experience increased allergy symptoms because of humidity.

So no, it’s not your imagination — according to science, your allergies really are getting worse.

If you suffer from severe allergies, find an allergy and immunology physician at Baylor Scott & White Health.

About the Author

Dr. Weldon is an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – College Station Rock Prairie. He specializes in allergy and immunology.

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