Ever feel like your allergies hit harder each season? Brace yourself, because it turns out climate change is behind this escalating allergy onslaught. Climate change is not just about rising temperatures and extreme weather events; it also has a significant impact on our health, including exacerbating allergies. Climate change is making seasonal allergies worse by extending pollen seasons and increasing pollen production. Additionally, research from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) confirms that allergy seasons are getting worse due to climate change, attributing the blame to longer warm seasons and elevated levels of carbon dioxide stimulating plant growth and pollen production.

The Impact of Climate Change on Allergies:

  1. Extended Pollen Seasons: climate change leads to longer and more intense allergy seasons by extending the duration of warm weather, which in turn prolongs the pollen-producing season. 
  2. Increased Pollen Production: elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can directly stimulate plants to produce more pollen, intensifying allergy symptoms for individuals.
  3. Changing Plant Distribution: climate change can alter the distribution of plants and introduce new allergens to regions, exposing more people to allergens they were previously not sensitive to. 

Tips to Reduce Allergies and Reduce the Impact of Climate Change:

  1. Choose Energy-Efficient Air Purifiers: indoor air pollution can worsen allergies, but using energy-efficient air purifiers with HEPA filters can effectively capture allergens while minimizing energy consumption.
  2. Support Renewable Energy: switching to renewable energy sources like solar or wind power can reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality, benefiting both the environment and allergy sufferers.
  3. Plant Native Trees and Shrubs: Planting native species, can help maintain biodiversity and reduce pollen exposure, especially if these plants are low-allergen varieties.

Tips to Ease Allergies:

  1. Use a Neti Pot: use a neti pot with saline solution to rinse allergens from nasal passages and relieve congestion.
  2. Try Nasal Sprays: nasal sprays containing corticosteroids can reduce nasal inflammation and alleviate allergy symptoms effectively. 
  3. Keep Indoor Air Clean: regular cleaning and proper ventilation helps to minimize indoor air pollution, which can exacerbate allergies.
  4. Monitor Pollen Counts: Stay informed about pollen forecasts from reliable sources to plan outdoor activities when pollen levels are lower.
  5. Consult an Allergist: If allergies persist or worsen, consult an allergist for personalized treatment options tailored to your specific allergens and symptoms.

Ways to counteract climate change overall: 

  1. Switch to Heat Pumps: Reduce reliance on fossil fuels for heating and cooling, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions associated with traditional HVAC systems.
  2. Insulate Your Home: Improve energy efficiency, reducing the need for heating and cooling. Plus, lower energy bills and carbon footprint.
  3. Reduce Consumption and Waste: Consume less by buying only what you need. Opt for reusable items and recycle as much as possible. Compost organic waste to minimize methane emissions from landfills.
  4. Use People-Powered Transportation: Walk, bike, or use public transit whenever possible, thus reducing emissions from personal vehicles, improving air quality.
  5. Drive Electric Vehicles (EVs): Switch to EVs to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for transportation. Lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional gasoline or diesel vehicles.
  6. Invest in Renewable Energy Sources: Install solar panels or participate in community solar programs. Support renewable energy initiatives to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  7. Advocate for Climate-Friendly Policies: Support and promote policies that prioritize renewable energy and sustainability. Encourage others to adopt climate-conscious practices and lifestyles.

By understanding how climate change impacts allergies and taking proactive steps to reduce environmental impacts while managing allergies effectively, we can create a healthier environment for ourselves and future generations. Incorporating sustainable practices into our daily lives not only benefits our health but also contributes to a cleaner and more resilient planet.

Olivia Sousa is a graduate of American International College (spring 2023) and a Green Newton intern.