Climate change, allergies

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Roanoke, Va., March 21 – Flowering Tree: The spring allergy season is caused primarily by pollen released from blooming trees. This tree is one of the first types to be in full bloom this season, indicating the start of spring allergies. Photo: Lizzy Street

by Lizzy Street–-

March’s flowering trees may be pretty, but they mark the beginning of the spring allergy season by releasing types of pollen that are especially irritating to those who are allergic. According to an article in the Washington Post, Virginia’s allergy season has worsened in recent years and will continue to do so: it will start earlier, last longer and be more intense.

A climate change study conducted in 2018 by the Natural Resources Defense Council attributes this early start to rising temperatures in the state, which are boosting plant growth and pollen production.

However, Dr. Laura Dziadzio, an allergist-immunologist at Carilion Clinic, says that she has not noticed changes in Virginia’s spring allergy season during her time as an allergist.

“Typically, things are worse in April, and that’s pretty consistent,” said Dziadzio. “This year, I think it’s probably going to be . . . typical.”

Allergy differences across Virginia may be caused by a wide variety of allergens, but geography also plays a role. According to Dziadzio, communities located in valleys can have particularly bad allergy seasons.

“With the Roanoke Valley, I’m told we’re the worst because the valley does trap some of the allergens,” said Dziadzio. “[Being in a valley] may make it a little bit worse — the gravity.”

Residents of the New River Valley have noticed similar trends.

“I definitely do notice a difference when I’m [in Northern Virginia] and when I’m here,” said Kristal Melendez, a Virginia Tech student with seasonal allergies. “I feel like the air here is . . . stuffier. It’s worse when I’m here.”

For those with seasonal allergies, reactions to pollen can include a runny nose, red and itchy eyes, congestion and sneezing. People with asthma may experience flares in symptoms. As the allergy season progresses and possibly changes, Dziadzio suggests using either prescription or over-the-counter medications, including nasal sprays, eye drops and antihistamines. She also says that if medicines alone do not help, allergy shots may be beneficial.

As someone who has dealt with seasonal allergies for years, Melendez suggests seeking further treatment than going to a family physician.

“I would stress the importance of trying to get to an allergist and finding exactly what it is [you’re] allergic to,” said Melendez. “I think the knowledge of actually going might help being able to better target what it is.”

Additionally, an article from Mayo Clinic recommends some non-medicinal measures to take, such as showering after being outside, drying sheets and towels indoors, wearing pollen masks while outdoors and checking local media for pollen forecasts.

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Image linked to full version of infographic on Piktochart.com