Climate Change is Making Your Allergies Worse, But Here’s How to Beat the Seasonal Sneezes

It’s not your imagination; your allergies probably are worse this year than you remembered. There’s reportedly a good reason why, too. Experts are claiming that climate change is, among other things, wreaking havoc for allergy sufferers. But you don’t have to give up hope quite yet, as there are some ways to battle your itchy eyes and runny nose.

May is actually known as National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, which seems an appropriate choice as pollination kicks into high gear. According to recent data, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, affecting more than 50 million Americans in a given year. And the likelihood that allergic rhinitis will spontaneously go away is approximately 1% per year. The number of Americans with allergies and other respiratory issues has grown over the last several decades, too. Although only one in 10 Americans struggled with hay fever back in 1970, approximately 30% of U.S. residents did by the year 2000. The reason? Many industry experts blame climate change, at least in part. When temperatures increase, the amount of airborne pollen does, too. The growing season has expanded, which has its benefits, but it can also spell trouble for those who spend springtime in agony. Because trees have more time to pollinate, that means the allergy season is now longer than it used to be. In many parts of the country, pollen will start floating through the air by March, meaning that allergy sufferers have several months of sniffles to deal with.

Adding to the issue is the increased amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Green house gas emissions result in greater amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, which plants love. In fact, ragweed studies show that the amount of pollen produced by this plant doubles when the plant is exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide. What’s more, the U.S. Department of Agriculture states that excess carbon dioxide can make all different kinds of pollen even more potent. These factors make for a miserable spring for many Americans.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to fight back. Many Americans rely on homeopathic treatments when they’re feeling under the weather. Gargling with salt water, taking natural immune system supplements, or using saline spray can provide some relief. Even making changes to your diet might yield some positive results. When you’re sick, drinking orange juice might help, as a single serving contains more than 200% of the vitamin C your body needs on a daily basis. But when you’re dealing with allergies, it may be smart to add some natural antihistamines into your meal plan, like tomatoes and blueberries (which are rich in flavonoids). Some people swear by local honey, which can supposedly desensitize the body to specific types of pollen. You may want to limit your dairy intake, however, as these foods and beverages can thicken mucus and make your runny nose, cough, or sore throat worse. If ragweed is your enemy, you might want to consider cutting out certain products from your diet like melon, bananas, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, and chamomile tea, as these sensitivities can overlap.

Of course, conventional medicine can also work wonders. There are plenty of over-the-counter pills and nasal sprays that can help, though experts suggest that you schedule a visit with your doctor or allergist for a prescription-only option if those aren’t doing the trick.

Finally, you’ll need to do what you can to limit your allergy exposure in the first place. Since 83% of travelers say they would choose an allergy friendly room if they had an option, you can apply those same principles to your own home to avoid allowing allergens inside. For one thing, try to stay inside between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, especially when pollen counts are high. Try to keep your windows closed and the air conditioning on (and clean your HVAC filters!), too. Leave your shoes by the front door to prevent tracking allergens inside, and be sure to change your clothes and take a shower if you’ve been outdoors. Give your outdoor pets a bath and clean your home on a regular basis to keep dust, dander, and other elements from aggravating your allergies.

You can’t live in a bubble, but you don’t have to suffer in sniffles, either. Although you won’t be able to avoid allergies completely this year, keeping these tips in mind can alleviate at least some of your symptoms.

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