It may be good news for the makers of Kleenex and Claritin, but it’s bad news for us: a recent study suggests that severe seasonal changes may lead to higher levels of outdoor airborne allergens and increased allergy susceptibility among infants and babies in utero. This is especially true in industrialized nations.
Most common outdoor allergens, like tree pollen, grass pollen and mold, increase in production when temperatures and humidity are high. Ragweed levels in particular also go up with higher concentrations of atmospheric CO2 — the “greenhouse gas” causing all the trouble with global climate change.
Higher temperatures have already resulted in earlier pollen seasons in different parts of the world: remember the El Nino of 1997-1998, with its relentless rain, worldwide death toll and massive property damage? The year after this infamous weather event, the mold high point occurred earlier than normal due to the previous season’s wet and warm conditions.
The study also examined research on the timing of allergy development before and during infancy. While exposure to allergens from birth to 3 months was the strongest indicator of future allergies, exposure prior to birth was connected as well.
So as the consequences of climate change — higher temperatures, humidity and CO2 levels — extend the pollen season, more babies may grow up with things like eczema, runny noses, watery eyes or worse: asthma. High pollen and mold counts lead to worsening of symptoms for asthma sufferers, and studies have shown more asthma-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations during these peak times.
For now, try some natural remedies for allergy symptoms such as a neti pot and an indoor air purifier. To help curb your kids’ asthma attacks, try these surprising at-home tricks, or even an asthma “diet” (and definitely keep them off acetaminophen).
For later, learn what you can do about climate change.