2012-05-03 / Community

Warm and dry winter leads to early crop of allergies

For Michigan residents who feel like they’ve had more allergies than usual since February, they may be right. This year was the fourth warmest winter on record for many parts of the U.S. The warm temperatures and lack of wintry precipitation have triggered an early release of pollen from trees leading to an early crop of allergies.

Approximately 50 million Americans have some form of allergy. Today, allergies are the third most common chronic disease among children and adolescents, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Further, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, half of the 20 million Americans with asthma have allergic asthma. Allergic asthma is a type of asthma that is triggered by an allergy. For those with allergic asthma, breathing pollen can cause coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, leading to stepping up or starting medications to help get these symptoms under control.

Climate scientists are looking at how environmental factors such as temperature, length of the pollen season, and air pollution affect allergies and asthma. As the warm seasons get longer and hotter, allergy sufferers are exposed to pollen for a longer period of time and in larger amounts.

The most powerful tool allergy sufferers have against potential climate change affects is taking preventive measures to minimize symptoms. The Michigan Department of Community Health has some tips for coping with spring allergies:

• Take allergy medications as prescribed by your physician.

• Keep the windows in your home closed, which prevents pollens from drifting in.

• Minimize morning activity when pollen levels are at their highest, between 5 and 10 a.m.

• Keep your car windows closed when driving.

• Stay indoors when the pollen count is reported to be high, and on windy days when pollen may be present in higher amounts in the air.

• Use a clothes dryer to machine dry bedding and clothing, instead of hanging clothes on a clothesline, which can cause laundry to become coated with pollen.

Severe allergic reactions and asthma attacks can be life-threatening. Work with your doctor ahead of time to determine what to do when your signs and symptoms worsen, and when you need emergency treatment. If your quickrelief medications do not relieve symptoms of a severe allergy or asthma attack, seek emergency help right away.

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