For the last several years, many of us have experienced worse seasonal allergies during the spring and autumn. Now, scientific evidence is beginning to show that there are very real trends behind these unusually intense allergy seasons. Researchers associated with the University of Utah have compiled data on pollen levels in North America over the last 30 years. The results indicate that climate change is likely the driving force behind increasingly severe seasonal allergies.
The researchers found that climate change has gradually shifted the time frame for allergy season throughout North America. On average, plants now begin pollinating about 20 days earlier than they did at the beginning of the period under investigation. In addition to starting earlier, allergy seasons now also last roughly one week longer.
Worse still for allergy sufferers, higher levels of carbon dioxide and warmer temperatures have also led to higher pollen production. The researchers found that plants produce about 20 percent more pollen today than 30 years ago. The higher concentrations of pollen are likely a result of improved plant growth, according to the researchers. Flowering plants tend to grow better in warm conditions with abundant carbon dioxide available to them. These conditions, consistent with the current understanding of climate change, lead to larger flowers and, as a result, more pollen from each plant.
Longer allergy seasons are just one of the many negative health effects humans could see over the coming years as a result of shifting climates. Ash from forest fires, higher carbon dioxide levels and particulate matter from the pollution that contributes to global warming also exert downward pressure on overall air quality. Combined, these problems make it more important than ever to take steps to improve the quality of the air we all breathe.
While larger solutions will take time and require major changes, there are some steps you can take right now to reduce your exposure to low-quality air. One of the best options for most people is to invest in a home air purifier. Air purifiers for allergies, for instance, feature HEPA filters that can effectively capture airborne pollen. By using one of these air purifiers in your home, you can help to reduce your pollen exposure during allergy season and potentially reduce the severity of your symptoms.
If you live in a large, urban area, you should also consider an air purifier that offers carbon filtration. Carbon filters capture gases, odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that a standard HEPA filter can’t. As a result, these filters offer an additional layer of protection against some of the more difficult to target components of air pollution.
Beyond air purification, you can also consider re-circulating the air in your home during allergy season. A whole-house fan can move your home air around to prevent it from becoming too stuffy without bringing potentially contaminated air in from the outside. Circulating air during the day and opening the windows to bring fresh air in at night can also help you balance off the need for fresh air with the goal of avoiding peak pollen times.
Have questions about using air purifiers this allergy season? We’re here to help! Feel free to contact us with your questions, and we’ll be happy to provide you with answers and product recommendations based on your unique needs.