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Allergists share how climate change is affecting allergies, what you can do to curb the suffering

Allergists share how climate change is affecting allergies
Allergists share how climate change is affecting allergies 02:27

NEW YORK -- Spring allergy season is in full swing a little ahead of schedule, but ahead of schedule is becoming the new norm for pollen release.

CBS2's Vanessa Murdock spoke with two allergists to find out how climate change affects pollen and allergies and what you can do now to curb the suffering.

Bold pink blossoms against the backdrop of pristine blue skies craft beautiful scenery and big problems for some, like 4-year-old Amelia. Her grandmother, Denise Margiotta, shares as soon as they step outside, symptoms spike.

"Dry cough, sneezing a lot. I feel horrible for her," Margiotta said. "She tells us she doesn't feel well."

Dr. Leonard Bielory, an adjunct professor at Rutgers University, manually conducts the pollen count several times a week, and he says he recently found "it has shot up into the thousands."

Bielory also crunched the pollen counts from the past 40 years to assess the impact of climate change on pollen and allergies.

"It is starting earlier, in general," he said.

From 2000 through 2020, the season started 19 days earlier and pollen production increased by roughly one-third. He honed in on ragweed from Texas due north to Canada.

"As you move north, the change is that it starts earlier and ends later. What does it correspond to? Frost-free days," Bielory said.

Warming temperatures increase the number of frost-free days. His research also revealed humans experienced increased allergy sensitivity because of enhanced exposure.

"Ragweed sensitivity used to be about 40 percent about 25 years ago. It is now approaching 60-70 percent of the population," Bielory said.

So what does he expect in the next decade?

"Pollen counts will increase, meaning the amount of pollen a single plant produces will increase and the duration that it's releasing the pollen will increase," he said.

What's an allergy sufferer to do?

Dr. Katherine Monteleone, professor of medicine at Rutgers RWJ Medical School says at the first sign of symptoms, activate avoidance measures and start medicine.

"Windows closed, home and car. Air conditioner can filter," Monteleone said. "The other thing is outdoor clothes and indoor clothes. Pollen gets to you because it sticks to the mucosa of your eyes, your nose. It can also stick your clothes and your hair."

When you get home, shower and throw your indoor clothes on.

"A lot of people who suffer find that just doing that helps them use less medicine," Monteleone said.

Bielory also shared allergies impact almost 40% of the population.

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