Climate change affects people with allergies: High temperatures have caused earlier outbreaks of hay fever

Photo: Pexels / Karolina Grabowska

The number of people experiencing symptoms of seasonal allergies has increased over the last 20 years, and in several European countries - those allergic to pollen barely have a few weeks a year without symptoms.

Experts attributed this to the increased risk of allergy symptoms in high temperatures, as the previous January was the hottest ever recorded in Europe.

For example, in France, specific meteorological conditions caused an increased presence of pollen in the air.

"Most of the states are currently blowing southwest-northeast winds, which is spreading the pollen, it is moving from the southern region where more flowers are blooming and therefore the pollen is more in the air in the northern part. where the pollen has not yet been released," he said David Faranda from the French National Center for Scientific Research.

Trees bloom early

The National Aerobiological Surveillance Network in France warned last week that the presence of hazel and alder pollen has increased. In addition, an increased concentration of pollen from trees of the cypress family (cedar and spruce) has been announced, which will drastically increase the risk of allergies.

Carl Christian Bergman from the German Pollen Information Service told Euronews that in the last twenty years pollen in the air has started to appear earlier, especially from hazel and birch.

Birch pollen levels vary greatly from year to year, but Bergman points out that they tend to increase.

"It's not that there's more pollen, but the season starts earlier than usual," he said, adding that air pollution in cities can change the proteins in allergens.

Namely, the Polish study published last year in the professional journal "PLOS One" shows that living in highly polluted cities, for example, contains high levels of the main allergen. That is why the authors recommend in their work that the trees that most often cause allergies should not be planted in polluted cities.

Climate change affects allergy season

This year in Germany, the alders started to "bloom" more at the beginning of February, i.e. earlier than usual due to the high temperature, he says Mathias Merjan from the Pollen Information Service.

A 2014 French government report warned that climate change could extend the pollen allergy season, change the geographic distribution of pollen and increase its concentration in the air.

It points out that air pollution can also interact with pollen and allergies.

The early start and extension of the allergy season into the fall means there is very little allergen-free time of year.

"If you're allergic to tree pollen, grass pollen, and, say, ragweed, then you have very little time—two, three, or four weeks without pollen in the air," says Bergman.

"By comparison, twenty years ago we had at least three or four months without pollen," he adds.

Faranda says allergy season can stop during the winter when temperatures drop and then resume.

"The fact that we are still winter, according to the calendar, makes it possible that at some point in March or even February we will have cold weather that will stop the flowering of many species and put a break in the allergy season, which will then start again," adds the expert .

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