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climate change affecting allergies

Is Climate Change Affecting Your Allergies? This has seemed to be a particularly difficult fall season for patients with allergies and asthma. The spring season in Chicago has always been variable, some mild, some more severe. But for the first time I can remember, this fall many patients with previously mild to moderate allergies and asthma are describing more severe symptoms than in years prior. The seasonal allergy and asthma regimens that worked in the past are not doing the trick this year.

The fall ragweed season in Chicago has always tended to start around August 15. Probably due to the length of the day, which around that time may trigger ragweed plants to release pollen into the air. This year we noticed our ragweed patients having allergy and asthma symptoms earlier than August 15. The symptoms have stayed severe well past ragweed season (mid-August – early October) into the Chicago outdoor mold season which is here now and won’t decrease until the first hard frost.

No one is sure why this might be the case. Certainly weather must play a role in the severity and duration of a pollen or mold season. Might it be that changes in the climate of North America are impacting the distribution and prevalence of plants which release pollen allergens into the air? Could this climate change cause us to have more frequent and more severe symptoms of asthma and allergies? European researchers are already predicting warmer temperatures could greatly extend the ragweed season and increase the number of people suffering from seasonal allergies to double the current number over the next 35 years!

We should be able to rely on area pollen and mold counts to address whether or not we are exposed to fewer or more airborne allergens over the years. Unfortunately, there are actually very few Allergy Bureau counting stations. For example, in Chicago, there is only one station, in Melrose Park. Their good, consistent work is very important. However, is one station in an area the size of Chicagoland enough? If you live in the northern suburbs, or in the heart of the city, how relevant is the identification of 20 pollen grains and 30 mold spores captured on a slide from the rooftop of a building 10 miles away from your home? Information on your smart phone pollen counter may actually reflect what’s happening in an area that is far removed from your own neighborhood.

Lately, I have been consulting with a company that creates a product that helps measure mold and many other allergens, like dust mite, pet dander, pollen and more in your home. As an introduction to their new product, they are offering a limited time free Mold Test you can run in your home. Check it out this page to see what their services can do for you.

The numbers of people with allergies and asthma are increasing. The severity of their exposure and symptoms may be increasing as well! It’s going to be increasingly important to be able to identify what’s in your own environment, so you can take the appropriate steps, reduce the allergen exposure, reduce the symptoms and the need for more medication.

Dr Paul Detjen
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