Cape Cods who feel that their seasonal allergies are getting worse every year aren’t alone. And they are not wrong.
Doctors and environmental health scientists say climate change is contributing to longer and more intense pollen seasons — a trend that shows no signs of abating.
Dr. Aaron Bernstein, director of the Center for Climate Change, said studies that track pollen activity over decades show that warming trends triggered the pollen season to start two to three weeks earlier in the northern United States compared to the late 1970s and 1980s. global environment in Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
“Pollen seasons start earlier and last longer,” he said. Dr.. Luis ZiskaAssociate Professor, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York.
Ziska, who has published research on pollen trends in The Lancet and the National Academy of Sciences, said the number of frost-free days is increasing, affecting plants from trees to ragweed.
Longer growing seasons are characterized by extended Marked effect on pollen trends In New England, it is most pronounced in Minnesota and Dakota, where the growing season has been extended by up to three weeks, Ziska says.
“At the same time, the carbon dioxide in the air, which is mainly produced from burning fossil fuels, is causing allergenic plants to produce more pollen,” Bernstein said.
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Carbon dioxide can be a fertilizer for plants. It’s a double whammy. The double whammy is a longer growing season with more pollen.”
Recently retired Allergist Dr. Bruce Gordon of Yarmouthport witnessed the effect of the extended allergy season on the patient and themselves.
“I’ve been in practice for 40 years. The past decade has been a really noticeable change in the severity and severity of allergies,” he said. “Every year a little bit worse than the year before.”
“I myself have allergies,” said Gordon, who served as an argan surgeon and chief of otolaryngology at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.
“My nose is teary. I have itchy eyes. I have a cough. Sometimes it (pollen) comes off as mild asthma and I have to use an inhaler.”
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Mother Nature Double Dips
Gordon said that a longer growing season results in a merging of the early spring pollen season and later pollen season, to the detriment of patients.
“This is the moment we start to overlap,” said Dr. John Costa, an allergist at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth, who is also a physician in the Allergy and Asthma Associates offices in Buzzards Bay and Duxbury.
Costa said the overlap will continue for another two weeks, depending on weather conditions.
Sunny, warm weather—also known on Cape Cod as beach weather—contributes to pollen amounts. The rain washes the pollen away, Costa said.
Mark Thurman, COO of YMCA Cape Cod, had hoped that seasonal sensitivity would subside with his recent move from a fertile valley in Albany, New York, to Barnstable County.
This is not what happened.
“For me, it’s worse because of the wind,” Thurman said.
“The Wind Company is a great distributor of pollen, for sure,” Ziska said.
‘Sex on the cheap’
“I don’t want to be rated X,” Ziska said. But all pollen is a copy of plant semen.
“It’s the male sperm.”
Plants produce a lot of pollen and hope that some of it will reach the female flower. The wind helps, Ziska said. “It’s sex on the cheap.”
The pollen walls move with the weather fronts, being pushed out as the weather gets colder and wetter, Bernstein said.
On slack days when he gets up early outside his Boston home, Bernstein said, “You can actually see the pollen, and it’s breathtaking.”
It means this literally and figuratively and advises people who suffer from asthma to get checked Daily pollen count.
Ziska, who has asthma, makes sure to carry his inhaler during the days of high pollen counts.
“When you start to look at the health effects downstream, it can be rather important. Breathing is a very basic aspect of life as we know it,” Ziska said.
When allergy sufferers inhale pollen, it stimulates their immune system to release histamine, a chemical WebMD.com It’s like a bouncer in a club getting rid of something unwanted — in this case, an allergen.
If the body overreacts, Ziska said, it could lead to asthma and the lungs not getting the oxygen they need.
He said children and the elderly are most vulnerable to high pollen counts.
In addition to histamine, pollen allergy causes the release of other inflammatory substances that allow tissues of the eyes, nose, and lungs to become inflamed, Costa said.
He said that people with mild allergies may find that using an over-the-counter antihistamine will relieve all of their symptoms.
This class of antihistamines includes Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin, according to WebMD.
Costa said that people with moderate to severe seasonal allergies may need to ramp up their defenses by adding anti-inflammatory medications including Flonase and Nasacort nasal sprays, also available over the counter.
It is not recommended to use Benadryl, saying that it has too many side effects.
“I tell my patients, ‘Benadryl is the last century. “
John Oppenheimer, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said that anti-inflammatory nasal sprays work better for a stuffy nose than antihistamines.
He said it’s best for people to start taking their medication — whether it’s antihistamines, nasal sprays, or both — a few weeks before seasonal allergies appear.
“No one wants to have symptoms for a week during the nicest part of the year.”
Oppenheimer said early treatment can help ward off asthma attacks and allergy-related sinus infections, which occur when bacteria in the sinuses stop due to a blocked nose that reduces mucus flow.
“I can’t tell you how many people I see have an asthma attack” due to seasonal allergies, he said.
If people don’t find complete relief with antihistamines and anti-inflammatories, Gordon said, they should consult their doctor about getting allergy shots.
Beyond antihistamines and anti-inflammatories
“If you don’t do well with those, you need something different, you need something more,” he said.
Gordon said allergy shots appear to be particularly effective in controlling allergy-related fatigue.
Even with over-the-counter medications, Oppenheimer said, it’s best to talk to a doctor about controlling worsening allergy symptoms.
“Precision medicine should be based on your condition and on your specific symptoms,” he said.
People who fail to anticipate allergy season “are not doomed to fail,” Costa said. He said it’s worth starting treatment now, although it will take several days to experience relief.
Doctors said allergy sufferers can also take other steps to limit exposure to pollen, from using saline nasal rinses to closing windows and turning on the air conditioner.
Vacuuming carpets and bed linens will remove pollen from the environment, as will washing clothes and showering after spending time outdoors.
Hair is a trap for pollen, Costa said, so washing it before dumping a load of allergen on the pillow at night makes sense, especially for people who have spent afternoons sitting outdoors or working in the garden.
Pollen builds up on people, he said, “just like you see it build up on the hood of your car.”
“Disguise can help,” Ziska said.
Get a breath of fresh air by the ocean
While the end of the tree pollen season, which allows oaks, birches and pines to wreak havoc with people’s respiratory symptoms, will create some relief in the coming weeks — leaving grass pollen to take its punches alone and not all at once — experts say climate change will continue to Lengthening the pollen season.
“When you look at the long-term climate, it’s only going to get much worse,” Ziska said.
Thurman said he manages his symptoms with daily medication — and by going to the beach when he can.
He said he wondered why the beach would provide such relief for his allergy symptoms until a friend pointed out that the ocean-driven winds that flow on the sand are pollen-free.
“The breeze from the ocean does not come from the land.”
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