Bad news for hay fever sufferers: Climate change could worsen allergy season by up to 60 percent, new model predicts
- Experts have studied pollen levels and weather conditions in Europe for decades
- They found that before the pollen season rain and air temperature were the main indicators
- They can tell you exactly how severe the pollen and allergens will be
- This allows professionals and patients to plan ahead for a bad year
People suffering from hay fever could have a worse time in the future, as a new study shows that climate change can worsen allergy season by as much as 60%.
A team of scientists from the University of Worcester created new statistical models to predict the changes in pollen severity as air temperature and rainfall change.
Based on long-term assessments looking at annual changes in pollen concentration, they found that climate change would have a significant impact.
Lead author Alexander Kurganskiy says projected changes in climate could increase the severity of the allergy season by up to 60% from current levels.
By being able to predict risk and understand possible changes, it is hoped that people with allergic rhinitis can prepare for the pollen season to reduce exposure.
People suffering from hay fever could have a worse time in the future as a new study shows climate change can worsen allergy season by up to 60%
How can you treat hay fever?
Vaseline: Apply the jelly around the nose to catch pollen particles
Nasal filters: They form a physical barrier between the pollen particles and the nasal membrane
Air purifiers: The household appliances remove pollen particles from the air
Eye drops and tablets: They contain antihistamines to reduce inflammation
Immunotherapy: The process involves consuming the allergen for a number of years to build up the body’s tolerance
Although up to 40% of Europeans suffer from pollen allergies, there are currently no clear guidelines for the best preparation for the upcoming allergy seasons.
Until this new study, it was also unknown how the severity of the allergy season might change as the climate continues to warm due to human activities.
To address these gaps, Kurganskiy and colleagues built a statistical model to simulate and predict the sum of pollen concentrations, also known as the seasonal pollen integral (SPIn).
They did this for each of the 28 locations throughout the grass pollen season in Europe and determined ‘no relationship’ between pollen severity and different locations.
This suggests that each site should be considered individually when developing a long-term approach to hay fever treatment, Kurganskiy explained.
Each site was studied from year to year to look for annual variations in grass SPIn based on the net organic carbon production of grasses at 34 pollen monitoring stations.
As part of the study, they used the Joint UK Land Environmental Simulator (JULES) model to simulate net organic carbon production for more than 407 pollen seasons at these stations between 1996 and 2016.
This aspect of the study allowed them to find that small variations in grass growth led to large variations in pollen count.
“Our findings have the potential to be used in atmospheric dispersion models for northwestern Europe or larger regions around the world where sufficiently robust pollen data is available,” said Kurganskiy.
Allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, is inflammation in the nose caused by an overreaction of the immune system to airborne allergens.
A team of scientists from the University of Worcester has created new statistical models to predict the changes in pollen severity as air temperature and rainfall change
Managing the symptoms of allergic rhinitis is challenging and requires timely intervention, including preparation for how severe the upcoming allergy season will be.
The new research shows that the annual severity of a particular season is determined by the weather conditions leading up to the pollen season.
By knowing this, future forecasters can make predictions about the likely risk levels for people with high allergies, giving people time to prepare.
For example, the team found that each region they monitored had a different severity level, suggesting it might be possible to plan vacations to avoid the worst effects of pollen in any given year.
The findings are published in the journal Science Advances
HAY FEVER: AN ALLERGIC REACTION TO POLLEN
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, a fine powder that comes from plants. In the spring and summer when the plants bloom, there is more pollen in the air.
The reaction usually occurs when pollen comes into contact with a person’s eyes, nose, mouth, or throat.
Hay fever symptoms include coughing and sneezing; a runny or stuffy nose; itchy, red, or watery eyes; itchy throat, nose, mouth, or ears; headache and fatigue.
People suffering from the allergy can put petroleum jelly around their noses to catch the pollen, wear sunglasses to keep the pollen out of their eyes, wash clothes regularly, and vacuum and vacuum indoors.
Avoiding grass, cut flowers, and smoke can help reduce symptoms, as can drying clothes indoors where pollen is less likely.