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Is climate change causing a spike in asthma and allergies?


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 2:30 -

Allergy season is in full swing, and if you find yourself sneezing more than usual this year, you aren't alone.

Climate change has been linked to many things -- from a decline in animal populations to a surge in weather extremes.

Now, research has drawn a relationship between rising global temperatures and conditions like asthma and seasonal allergies.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, increases in heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mixed with increases in precipitation, aid in the proliferation of allergen-laden plants.

Allergy treatment costs an average of $21 billion annually in the U.S. -- and that number could rise in the years to come.

On May 16, 2013, Epocrates and athenahealth, a California-based mobile health software developer, warned that the 2013 allergy season had yet to peak south of the border -- unlike the year before, where cases had started to decline by mid-May. 

"In 2013, allergy visits [to doctor's offices] ... were up 20 percent in the western United States compared to this time last year," the company says.

"The south was hit particularly hard this February."

Ed Neuzil PhD, founder of the Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Center in central Florida, says he has noticed a spike in patients recently, adding that the "length and severity" of the season appears to have increased dramatically.

"Both allergies and asthma are definitely linked to the changes in climate," he says.

"With the more moderate winters the allergy season seems to be starting earlier and earlier each year. We started to see more allergy symptoms in late December [this year] but by the first part of January it was full blown." 

South of the border, the allergy season is expected to run until October -- a full 30 days longer than average.

At present, there is no cure for seasonal allergies or asthma, and it's unlikely there will be any (permanent) relief for sufferers this season -- so if you are one of the millions of people afflicted with these conditions, you may want to keep your inhaler and/or tissue box close.

The 2013 allergy season is shaping up to be a long one, with plenty of bumps along the way.

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