SFU researcher says longer BC allergy season linked to climate change

Allergy season now longer

Does it feel like your spring allergies are getting worse and lasting longer year over year? Well, they likely are.

Simon Fraser University health sciences lecturer Cecilia Sierra-Heredia says there is more pollen in the air due to warmer temperatures caused by climate change.

With it becoming warmer earlier in the year, plants and flowers release their pollen grains earlier, causing pollen and allergy season to be extended, she says.

"While plants are making the most of these warmer environmental conditions during the spring to summer periods and even early fall, the humans who have allergies are constantly inhaling pollen grains and their bodies are treating them as threats," Sierra-Heredia said in a news release.

But how do we know that there's more pollen?

"Aside from anecdotal [evidence] from talking to other allergy sufferers, we have very detailed records of the pollen counts — how many grains of pollen are in the air — every day of the year," she said, adding a recent global study went back over 20 years of pollen data.

"There is pollen for more days during the year, and there are more grains of pollen floating in the air. And these increases are linked, associated, with increasing temperatures and CO2."

And there can be unexpected knock-off effects that result from these changes in nature.

"In general, we know that with the delicate balance of nature, every time it is altered, everything kind of moves around," she said.

An example from Sierra-Heredi's homeland of Mexico is what is happening with the agave plant that tequila is made from, which is pollinated by a bat.

"Because of climate change, the locations where this plant and bat live are not overlapping that much anymore," she said, noting many people depend on tequila production for their livelihood.

"The plant that depends on these bats — these flying nocturnal pollinators — is being disrupted."

Sierra-Heredi recommends wearing your COVID-19 mask and either disposing or washing it when you get home.

Also, if you have been outside for a while, have a shower to get the pollen out of your hair.

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