ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Every spring, summer and fall, allergy sufferers in Metro Detroit brace for the inevitable; a blast of pollen that can make or break those outdoor plans after being forced to spend months indoors during Michigan’s long winter.
“Pollen really brings out the worst in me. It’s really a bad time, scratchy throat. It’s just that the worst things always happened around this time of year,” said Robby Harden.
Harden, 29, has lived with his allergies since he was a child. He, like most allergy sufferers, can pinpoint exactly when his allergy symptoms first appeared.
“I was just out of recess one day, and I came in and one of my teachers asked if I was fighting or something, and because my face was all swollen and I didn’t feel bad at all,” he said. “But then I was standing in the bathroom looking in the mirror and I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what happened. So that was kind of like my big rude awakening that seasonal allergies can really affect me in a pretty big way.
His allergies and asthma that came with it became so severe that he ended up in the hospital again and again.
“It was very scary because, you know, not just nebulizers and inhalers, but I was going to go to the hospital. Looking back on it now, it would also be a little bit caused by the allergies. So having a good time in the hospital, having a school that has to do all these different breathing treatments. It was really scary.”
Millions of children are treated for pollen allergies each year, according to the Mayo clinic. Those seasonal allergies that often accompany childhood asthma are incurable and cause permanent damage to the lungs.
Right now, Michigan is in the midst of tree pollen season, and so many of us are painfully aware of that. According to an unscientific poll of WDIV insiders, 96% of people who responded said they think their allergies have gotten worse over the past five years and that climate change is a major contributor to that; and maybe they are right. New research from the University of Michigan shows that the allergy season will get longer and stronger — boosted by the effects of climate change.
“As we have warmer temperatures as we move toward the end of the century, we see that pollen seasons are actually going to get longer and there will likely be more pollen in the atmosphere as a result of warmer temperatures,” said Dr. Allison Steiner, of the University of Michigan Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, said.
Steiner is the co-author of a new study published in the journal “Nature.” Her findings show that allergy season can start 40 days earlier and last 19 days longer as the climate warms. She told Local 4 about her work while walking through the Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, ground zero for an allergen explosion.
“The part that was unexpected in some regions was the different timing of the pollen collapse, so instead of happening one after the other,” she said. the same time.”
That particular finding means more pollen. At the high end of her estimates, pollen levels rose to 200% more pollen. That level of pollen could mean people don’t have allergies now, and they might leave many unprepared later.
The weather can also play a role in this. As storms intensify due to climate change, there is evidence of what has been termed thunder asthma. Essentially, when heavy rains break down pollen into smaller particles that can penetrate deeper into the lungs and cause major breathing problems, even for people who don’t have allergies or asthma. Though Steiner said the evidence for that is still in its infancy and the biggest finding is the increase in allergy season and the amount of pollen we’re dealing with.
“Right now, about 30% of Americans have seasonal allergies and as the load continues to increase, people may become more sensitive to pollen over time, so we can expect more people to suffer from allergies as the pollen concentrations in the air increase. to be. higher,” Steiner said.
This means many more could start looking for a plan, just like Harden.
“The way most people watch the weather forecast. I check the pollen report every spring, you know, it’s just something I deal with to make sure I know if today is going to be a good day or a bad day and I have a plan from there,” Harden said.
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