(WJZ/CBS Local) — Climate change may be the cause of more spring allergies reported across the U.S., a new study shows.
According to researchers at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, human-induced climate change is changing when plants bloom and when spring begins. Ultimately, it’s leading to more seasonal allergies.
The study, which was based on more than 300,000 responses between 2012 and 2103, show that hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis increases when the spring blooms.
“We found that areas where the onset of spring was earlier than normal had 14% higher prevalence of hay fever,” said Associate Professor Amir Sapkota in the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health. “Surprisingly, we also found similar risk in areas where the onset of spring was much later than what is typical for that geographic location.”
This study provided the first national data on how climate change can increase seasonal allergies.
Hay fever affects 25 million American adults and its treatment is costing people $11.2 million annually, according to the study.
Sapkota and his team collected images from NASA to identify the start of the spring season in the U.S. and linked it to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Previous studies have shown that plant phenology is highly dependent on temperature. As such, it is one of the most sensitive indicators of how our ecosystem is responding to climate change,” said Dr. Chengsheng Jiang, co-author of the paper. “We show that such climate change-driven ecological changes are directly linked to allergic disease burden in the United States. Even a relatively small change in the timing of tree flowering can have a significant economic impact given that 25 million American adults already suffer from hay fever each year.”
Hay fever increases during the spring due to exposure to pollen. An early onset of spring means trees and flowers bloom sooner stay bloomed longer, creating more time for pollen exposure, researchers said.
Researchers said a late spring could also lead to a sudden burst of pollen due with high exposure for a shorter duration.
“Climate change impacts our health in more ways than we can imagine. We need community-specific adaptation strategies to increase resilience and minimize disease burden associated with climate change,” Sapkota urged.
Read the study here.