PHOENIX — Scientists have known for a long time that plants are very sensitive to temperatures.
So, it should come as no surprise that changing the temperature of our planet will change how plants live and grow.
Many scientific studies, including this one, have shown climate change is causing our pollen seasons to start earlier and last longer.
“We’ve seen this earlier flowering of plants and this shifting of when plants start their year. That’s been observed in hundreds of studies across the world. What’s interesting about our study is it connects it directly to pollen loads in the air which has these huge allergies, asthma, and health consequences for us,” said William Anderegg, a scientist at the University of Utah and lead author on the study.
Anderegg and his team have not only found that pollen seasons across the United States are staring two to three weeks earlier, but that there’s more pollen in the air now.
So what can you do to keep your family healthy?
“We know from a lot of other studies that pollen seasons and the amount of pollen in the air matter for hospital admissions for asthma. It also seems to matter for school performance. When kids are really suffering from pollen they do less well in school,” said Anderegg.
Anderegg’s colleague John Abatzoglou, from the University of California-Merced, has experienced this firsthand. “One of my 5-year-old boys is struggling to sleep at night because of his allergies and so there may be some ways in that actually impacts his ability to pay attention in school.”
If you are an allergy sufferer, Dr. James Napoli with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona recommends staying indoors and trying to avoid pollen altogether.
If you do have to go outside, Napoli says to wear a mask.
“The N95 mask is a mask that would certainly help with this. The more cloth-type masks that we use are not going to be as good as say the N95 mask, but it will offer some help in preventing the allergens and all those pollens in the air from being absorbed as they normally would,” Napoli said.
He also recommends keeping your windows closed, using an air purifier in your home, and keeping your bedroom pet-free.
Even as scientists warn that our pollen seasons are getting worse, Napoli is hopeful that our ways to deal with it will get better.
“I think as time goes on, you’ll see an evolution with the climate change and other things that are causing these pollens to be out there longer, but I also think you’ll see improvements in the treatments, therapies that will help keep this situation as treated as possible,” Napoli said.