Does Climate Change Impact Allergic Disease?
Scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and that our planet is warming is nearly unanimous. Climate change is associated with rising temperatures, changes in worldwide weather patterns and increasing airborne pollen levels and duration. These changes have been observed to impact health, including that of allergic individuals.
Climate Change and Global Warming
• Climate change is characterized as any change in composition of the global atmosphere or regional climate patterns that adds to the natural variability of the climate observed over time.
• Global warming is the increase in global temperature that is mainly attributable directly or indirectly to human activities resulting in an increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
• Increasing atmospheric gases such as CO2, N2O and CH4 along with H20 vapor are thought to be contributing factors to climate change. Greenhouse gases trap solar energy near the Earth’s surface, resulting in global warming.
Climate Change and Allergic Health
• Climate change variably affects the production and protein composition of pollen and fungal spores, as well as aerobiological processes such as emission, dispersion, transport and deposition associated with changing rainfall, winds and other related meteorological factors.
• Changes in the climate may impact pollen seasons of trees, grasses and weeds by both increasing the amount of pollen produced and by extending the duration of the pollen season.
• Alterations in the duration and intensity of pollen seasons affect allergic disorders such as rhinitis, conjunctivitis and asthma. Populations more vulnerable to these adverse health effects include children, elderly and those suffering from preexisting reactive airways diseases such as asthma.
• Greenhouse gases are capable of eliciting respiratory symptoms in persons with asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease, as well as contribute to premature mortality and declines in lung function over time.
• Flooding and severe storms can result in damp buildings and resultant mold exposure. In addition to triggering allergic reactions, increased mold spore exposures have been linked to other lung diseases.
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This article has been reviewed by Andrew Moore, MD, FAAAAI