Allergic? Global Warming Could Be Bad News!


Dec 08, 2014 by British Seniors

Being allergic to pollen can be miserable enough, but if scientists are to be believed, the effects of global warming could make things a whole lot worse.

According to a study from the University of Massachusetts published in November 2014, the increase in carbon dioxide production that arises from global warming is also likely to stimulate an increase in some of the grass pollen's to which many people are allergic.


Living with allergy

Allergies to grass pollen's are very common, and often referred to under the catch-all term of hay fever. However, use of this single term hides the fact that there are dozens of different types of grass, and thus many different varieties of grass pollen, and an individual may be allergic to one, some or none of them.

Typical symptoms of a grass pollen allergy include sneezing, a runny/stuffy/blocked nose, inflammation of the eyes and sinuses. Collectively, these symptoms are known as rhinitis. Rhinitis can be very difficult to control, and symptoms can severely impair sufferers' functioning and quality of life.

Many people who are allergic to grass pollen find that their symptoms are also triggered by certain foods. This is because the proteins in the grass pollen and the proteins in the foods are similar and set off the same allergic responses. 

In most grass pollen allergy sufferers their symptoms take the form of rhinitis, but in some the symptoms may be even more severe and include hives and – in very severe cases when grass pollen proteins or other allergens make their way into the blood stream – potentially fatal anaphylaxis.


Looking forward

The University of Massachusetts' scientists were looking for the links (if any) between increased carbon dioxide and ozone, and the production of grass pollen. This is because an increase in carbon dioxide is predicted because of global warming, as is a rise in ozone. These two gases are also interesting because they are known to have contrasting effects on plant growth: ozone inhibits plant growth, while carbon dioxide stimulates plant reproduction and growth.

To study these effects, the researchers simulated a range of atmospheric conditions, with different ozone and carbon dioxide levels in each, along with a simulation of the current situation for comparison. They then studied the effects of these climates on pollen amounts and on the allergy-causing proteins contained in that pollen.

The scientists found that increased carbon dioxide led to greatly increased levels of pollen, while ozone did not affect the volume of pollen produced. This is bad news for people allergic to grass pollen, because that pollen is common enough already, so increases at the levels suggested by this study would make it extremely common, perhaps almost impossible to avoid, as carbon dioxide increases.

The researchers declared that the effects of ozone were more difficult to discern, but it is known that ozone irritates the mucous membranes and this is likely to worsen the already distressing effects of allergies.

Therefore, it seems that we have yet another reason to continue the fight against global warming and climate change.