More Severe Spring Allergy Season Underway, Could Start Arriving Earlier: Doctors

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A more severe spring allergy season has arrived in the Midwest, and could start appearing up to 40 days earlier should the impacts of climate change continue, according to area doctors.

According to Allison Steiner, a professor at the University of Michigan, the timing of each year's pollen season could shift about 10 to 40 days earlier for trees and later by about five to 10 days for grasses and ragweed.

"Together, this led to a longer duration of the pollen season," Steiner said. "Pollen concentrations increased up to 200% when we considered the high end, warmest future climate emissions scenario."

A new study published co-authored by Steiner found that the allergy season could last longer and pollen production could increase "significantly" by 2100 due to additional carbon dioxide in the air, which helps plants produce more of the allergen.

"Right now, about 30% of the population are affected by seasonal allergies," Steiner said. "And so climate could impact daily symptoms for all of those people. Additionally, the higher pollen loads could lead to greater sensitization to pollen in other individuals."

The study looked at 15 pollen types, she said. According to researchers, the southeast will likely get hit the hardest, though the Midwest will likely still feel the change.

"These changes in pollen are another unintended consequence of climate change," Steiner said. "We need to be thinking holistically about how we can reduce emissions to avoid these adverse consequences."

This year's allergy season is already shaping up to be more severe than average, according to Dr. Sindhura Bandi, allergy and immunology physician at Rush Medical Center.

"We’ve seen a ton of precipitation this year that can have an impact on pollen dispersal," Bandi said.

A combination of the fluctuation of temperature and increased warmth globally due to climate change is likely what is leading to the longer, more severe allergy season, Bandi added.

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