Are allergies starting sooner, lasting longer, and more severe?

In 2021, 81 million people across the United States were diagnosed with seasonal allergies.

Each year, those who suffer find their allergies starting sooner, lasting longer, and feeling more severe.

According to Washington’s Department of Health, “Compared to 30 years ago, the pollen season is starting 20 days earlier and lasting for almost a month longer. This is mainly because of increasing temperatures from climate change.”

We contacted Washington State’s Climatologist Nick Bond, who confirmed that temperatures have been getting warmer over the years and that, looking ahead to this Spring, “It’s looking on the warm side.”

Bond added, “I’m especially confident that the summer is going to be on the warm side in part just because a lot of them have been like that recently.”

Warmer temperatures in the season promote excessive pollen because plants start blooming earlier and longer as temperatures remain warm. That extended bloom keeps pollen floating in the air.

Despite some cold snaps this winter, Bond said this winter was warmer than average overall in Washington. Now, we can start to see and even feel the domino effects of that in everyday life.

“The changes in the climate are having impacts on our natural systems,” said Bond, who added, “It’s a real concern because that’s not just an annoyance but a serious health thing for a number of individuals.”

KIRO 7 contacted an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor and surgeon, Dr. Nancy Becker, who owns practices in Bonney Lake and Enumclaw. When asked about allergy seasons in Western Washington, Dr. Becker said, “Over the last 20 years, we’ve noticed that the allergy season is getting longer, and it’s getting more intense.”

We also learned that the tree pollen count will be twelve out of twelve on Thursday. So, for people who suffer from allergies, specifically to tree pollen, symptoms may already be on the rise ahead of Spring.

But whether you’re experiencing symptoms now or later, there are preventative or proactive treatments you can start.

According to Dr. Becker, she has three lines of therapy for her patients to manage their symptoms:

  • Saline rinses (to clear out any pollen in the nasal cavity)
  • Use of nasal sprays
  • Over-the-counter medications

Dr. Becker states, “The gold standard for allergy therapy is immunotherapy.”

Dr. Becker says this treatment has a 90% success rate in eliminating a patient’s allergies. It starts with an allergy test to discover what you’re allergic to and then, over time, administers small doses of what you’re allergic to. The idea is “that you build up more antibodies and then won’t react,” said Dr. Becker.

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