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National Climate Assessment: Bad News for 50M Americans

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If you don’t have time to read the 800-page National Climate Assessment report that came out yesterday, here’s the takeaway for more than 50 million Americans with allergy and asthma: their already terrible symptoms are about to get worse.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), extreme climate changes, such as temperature increases, wildfires and superstorms can wreak havoc among allergy and asthma sufferers. Here’s how:

• Length of the growing season. Warmer temperatures will lead to longer growing seasons, a good thing for famers and gardeners, but it could mean increased misery for allergy sufferers because it escalates the time pollen and mold are present. These allergens can also lead to more asthma attacks among asthma sufferers.

• Erratic weather. If weather fluctuates greatly between warm and cold spells, it can result in more intense periods of pollen release during warm temperatures when plants take the cue to grow and release pollen. Once allergy sufferers are exposed to pollen, their immune system is primed to react to the allergens, meaning there will be little relief even if temperatures cool down.

• Rainfall. Rain can be either a good thing or a bad thing for allergy sufferers, depending on when it happens. The worst allergy seasons are often preceded by rainfall, which promotes rapid plant growth later on. But rain can also provide a much-needed respite for those with allergies, as a heavy rainfall can help clear the air of pollen. Thunderstorms, hurricanes and other extreme weather conditions can also lead to asthma attacks for some of the 26 million Americans with asthma.

• Wind. Dry and windy weather is not kind to people with allergies, as the wind spreads pollen and mold. Cold, windy weather or sudden weather changes are also asthma triggers.

• Wildfires. The National Climate Assessment claims that increased drought in the west will lead to more wildfires. The tremendous amount of smoke generated from such fires can act as an irritant for many asthma sufferers, resulting in asthma attacks.

“This report raises a lot of concern for Americans, especially those who suffer from conditions that are worsened with severe weather or climate change,” said allergist Clifford Bassett, MD, ACAAI fellow. “Allergy and asthma can strike at any age. Even those who have never had symptoms can suddenly develop the conditions, especially as these climate changes continue.”

Dr. Bassett and other ACAAI allergists are available to chat about how the recent release of the National Climate Assessment can affect those with allergy and asthma.

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