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Why are seasonal allergies getting worse?

Seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis) is term for an allergic response to pollen – pollen allergies affect around one in four adults and one in five children in the USA. Recently, reports have emerged raising concerns that not only are more people affected by seasonal allergies than ever before, but the number is continuing to grow – additionally, the pollen allergy season is also becoming longer and the average severity of symptoms experienced by people with hay fever is worsening. What is behind these worrying trends, and what can you do to protect yourself? Read on to find out.

Are seasonal allergies really getting worse?

In a word, yes – seasonal allergies are worsening in terms of the average severity of symptoms experienced by people with hay fever, with recent studies also identifying that more people are suffering from the condition and the allergy season is lasting much longer (with some allergists claiming it starts 20 days to a month earlier than 30 years ago). Aside from the well-known hay fever symptoms like congestion, sneezing and an itchy nose, throat and eyes, pollen allergies can also affect sleep quality, cause complications like ear and respiratory infections from chronic inflammation or worsen asthma symptoms, placing people with the condition at risk of allergy-triggered asthma attacks. There is also a significant economic impact attached to people missing school and work through hay fever.

Seasonal allergies – allergic rhinitis

What’s causing seasonal allergies to become more problematic?

Hay fever symptoms are getting more widespread, severe and long lasting – and concerningly, the main culprit is climate change – with increases in temperature, rainfall and stormy weather altering how plants grow and release their pollen – suggesting the issue will likely worsen before it improves. Having said that, there are some other factors contributing to the increasing hay fever levels that are unrelated to climate change. For example, botanical sexism, where city planners and individuals increasingly choose wind-pollinating trees over fruiting ones to avoid the inconvenience of dropped fruits and seeds, increases airborne pollen levels. Experts have also suggested that changes to the body’s bacterial microbiome may play a part in people’s rising sensitivity to allergens like pollen.

However, climate change is the main factor:

  • With temperatures rising, pollen production has risen by 20% between 1990–2018 and the areas where some plants grow are expanding, allowing their pollen to spread over a greater area.
  • The higher temperatures are also extending the pollen allergy season by enabling plants to bloom earlier in the year and keep blooming for longer.
  • In addition, increased rainfall causes many plants to release more pollen.
  • Some studies have suggested that changing wind patterns are causing pollen to be carried further, increasing its range and exposing people to new types.
  • Additionally, other studies have found that rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide may increase both pollen production and its allergenic effects.
  • Meanwhile, rising numbers of thunderstorms can cause a condition called “thunderstorm asthma”, when the sudden fall in temperature and rise in humidity during a storm causes pollen grains to break into multiple smaller particles that can penetrate deeper into the lungs and cause asthma symptoms like coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing.
Climate change and seasonal allergies

How can you limit the severity of your seasonal allergy?

With hay fever affecting more people and producing more severe symptoms than ever before, it’s useful to know how to reduce the likelihood and severity of any reaction – and the two main methods are treating the symptoms with medication or taking measures to avoid exposure to pollen to begin with.

Various medications are available for treating allergy symptoms

Antihistamines are the most common type of medication that can be taken for seasonal allergies, with other pharmacological options including immunotherapy (also called allergy shots, where the patient’s tolerance is increased through gradual exposure to the allergen), steroidal nasal sprays, decongestants and eye drops.

Air purifiers can be used to filter out allergen particles

Respiray Wear A+ –  wearable allergy relief

In terms of drug-free solutions, there are three kinds of air purifier that can help. Stationary air purifiers can purify the air in one room at a time and portable ones can be moved around and used wherever you are at the time. However, the most effective solution is a wearable air purifier like Respiray Wear A+, which is worn around the neck to provide constant protection by filtering allergens like pollen from the air and creating a buffer zone of clean air around the user’s nose and mouth.

By not allowing the particles to reach the airways, Wear A+ significantly decreases, or in most cases completely prevents, the appearance of allergy symptoms. This has been borne out by recent studies conducted by SGS and the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF), with ECARF’s clinical trial finding that Wear A+ “can be recommended from a medical point of view as an effective non-drug option for those allergic to pollen” and a rigorous filter test by SGS concluding that the device captures 99.9% of allergen particles.

Preventive measures can help limit your contact with pollen

Checking pollen forecasts for your area, for example at pollen.com, can also help you to avoid exposure to pollen by timing your trips out of the house and taking protective measures such as keeping windows and doors closed during critical periods of the day and washing your clothes when you come in from outdoors.

If you’re making a decision about taking medication you should talk to your doctor first, and you might need to try out a few options in order to find out what works best for you. If your pollen allergy is particularly heavy, you may also find that combining multiple approaches is effective.

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