Pollen Season is Worse because of Climate Change

Why We Need to Take Action, and How

hazel catkins and pollen dancing in the wind

The signs of spring are here — budding blooms, chirping birds, sneezing humans with itchy eyes and runny noses. Those allergy symptoms have been getting worse over the past few decades, and the reason may surprise you: Climate change.

Scientists have found that allergy seasons are getting longer and more severe. Human-caused climate change is the “dominant driver” of these longer pollen seasons and is a major reason for increasing concentrations of pollen.

Compared to 30 years ago, the pollen season is starting 20 days earlier and lasting for almost a month longer. This is mainly because of increasing temperatures from climate change.

Health impacts of more pollen, longer seasons

Birch trees are a primary source of pollen. These trees can be found across the state and are the third most abundant pollen type found in Seattle. Scientists predict there will be eight times as much birch pollen in our region by the end of the century.

According to these predictions, pollen season would start two to four weeks earlier than it does now. In addition, climate change could increase the range of plants and their pollen. And with longer, stronger pollen seasons come major health consequences:

· People with allergies may struggle with more reactions over a longer pollen season.

· More people could be diagnosed with asthma.

· Viral infections could become more frequent.

· School performance and workplace productivity could decrease.

· More people will likely visit emergency rooms with respiratory problems.

How to reduce the effects of pollen

At the Department of Health, we want you to be as healthy as possible. If you’re among millions of people in the U.S. who have pollen allergies, consider these steps to protect yourself.

· Clean the surfaces and floors in your home to remove dust and mold.

· Get high efficiency air filters that remove particles like pollen and mold in your HVAC systems.

· Spend less time outdoors or wear a mask when pollen is expected to be high. Get pollen count numbers at sites like the Northwest Asthma and Allergy Center.

· Help track pollen levels (see below).

· See more tips on our Asthma, Allergens, and Irritants website.

People who experience seasonal allergies can often use over-the-counter medication to get through itchy and sneezy days. But sometimes, people who suffer from asthma and other respiratory illnesses have dangerous, life-threatening reactions. See your medical provider if you have trouble breathing.

Help study pollen

By keeping track of pollen levels, we can help researchers, health care workers, and those with respiratory issues.

· You can assist in the study of pollen by taking samples and sending them to an effort led by CitizenScienceHD and Emory University.

· You can report when flowers open and other cyclical data to the National Phenology Network.

Do your part to stop climate change

We offer many ways you can help reduce your impact on climate change on our What You Can Do website. For example, you can:

· Vote.

· Invest in the future.

· Speak up.

· Drive less.

· Reduce food waste.

More Information

Information in this blog changes rapidly. Sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles. For more information from the Washington State Department of Health, visit doh.wa.gov.

Questions about COVID-19? Visit our COVID-19 website to learn more about vaccines and booster doses, testing, WA Notify, and more. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.

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