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How climate change is making allergy season more severe

How climate change is making allergy season more severe

Botanist Johannes Mazomeit stands in a field of ragweed

Johannes Mazomeit steps into a field filled with gray, dried-up shrubs. If it was summer, the botanist would be dressed in protective gear. It’s winter, and it’s still too early for these plants produce their potent pollen. 

ThThis field is full ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia),A invasive species that is It is also one the most allergenic plants in all of nature.   

Mazomeit said that just a few pollen grains could trigger allergic reactions even in people who are not allergic to any other substances.. It can strike anyone. 

Pollen can lead to those People who are allergicTo sneeze, have itchy eyes, a runny nose or cause more se.rious reactions, Asthma attacks. It can also lead to skin allergies.

Botanist Johannes Mazomeit stands in a field of ragweed

Mazomeit, a botanist, says it is difficult to contain ragweed because the seeds can remain dormant for many decades below ground.

For years, Mazomeit has been hunting the ragweed in his homeland of Rhineland-Palatinate, southwestern Germany. It is his job to keep it under control.  

“There has been a clear spreading in recent decades,” he said. He said that clusters have appeared in sandy soil, along roads, in private gardens, and on farms. 

A person wearing protective gear touches an ambrosia plant

Experts recommend that you wear protective gear and a mask before touching Ragweed.

Allergies are on the rise 

Originating from North America, the roots and fern-like foliage of ragweed were harvested by native tribes to obtain their medicinal properties. The plant provides cover and food for wild animals such as rabbits and birds.  

The ragweed’s seeds were brought to Europe in the 19th century, but it’s only in the past few decades that the species has become a problem. Warmer temperatures are a plusIt can spread if there are the right conditions. It’s currently found in more then 30 countries in Europe. including Germany. 

The yellow flowers of a ragweed plant

Ragweed plants love sandy soils. They thrive in sunflower fields and along roadsides.

Each plant can produce 3 billion pollen grains They can fly hundreds of miles. These grains are extremely small, which allows them to travel deeper into your lungs than pollens from other species. 

ThatProfessor Claudia Traidlhoffmann, head of the University of Augsburg’s environmental medicine, said that ragweed’s spread is particularly alarming.The book’s author Overheated: The implications of climate change for our bodies and health. 


Europe already has a significant problem with allergies. Ragweed’s presence is likely to make things worse. ANearly 40% of Europeans have some form of pollen allergy,Ccording to Traidl-Hoffmann, and thats predictedTo reach 50% by the middle century.

She also cites studies Found tBetween 2007 and 2017, the number of cases of allergic asthma, which can also be caused by pollen allergies, increased between 10-20% in Germany. 

The Situation is Get It could get worse Traidl-Hoffmann, “because Climate change affects pollen.”  

What role does climate change play? 

Warmer temperatures Are causingSome plants are good for you. Accelerate growth produce pollen earlierAnd for longer 

The pollen-free season is becoming shorter.Traidl-Hoffmann said that pollen is present in the air throughout the year. 

She also mentions that the presence pAvoidance of ollution Carbon dioxide in the air IsBoosting pollenProductionChanging the protein of the pollen itself, making it more aggressive. 

A birch tree in a field

Changes in the climate are making it longer for birch pollen to bloom, which is a major cause of European hay fever.

One Recent US studyIt was hotter in the summer. Higher levels of CO2In the atmosphere HaveNorth American pollen season began on an average of 20 days beforeSince 1990, With trees Releasesing Around 20% more pollen  

A study in ItalyThat The study of allergenic trees like birch, olive, and Cypress revealed that pollen seasons were becoming longer while pollen levels and people sensitive to pollens were increasing. 

Scientists have also demonstrated that The year 2000 saw ragweed plants being exposed to carbon dioxide levels (370 parts per Million) 132% more pollen than ragweed plants exposed CO2 concentrations of 1890 (280ppm). With the projected CO2 concentration of 600 ppm in 2050, the pollen counts rose by another 90%  

Ragweed pollen under the microscope

The pollen of plants like ragweed can undergo significant changes due to carbon dioxide or nitrogen dioxide.

SoWhat does this all mean for our health? 

Longer pollen season and higher hFor allergy sufferers, higher levels of the stuff in the atmosphere are undoubtedly bad news. Traidlhoffmann states that allergy sufferers will become more common over time. This has serious implications for productivity and our well-being.  

It is not only a threat to our physical health, but also to our society’s economic (perspective).“She says. 

Studies have shown that Allergy TeachersFor example, School doesn’t prepare you as well. during pollen season. Traidl-Hoffmann explainsThatAllergies Drops of up to 30% increase in performance in the workplace or classroomAdd to that, the loss of employment and medical treatment for allergies The EU could be hit with a staggering 150 billion euro debt ($170 billion) Annual.  

The coronavirus and other viruses may be more vulnerable to pollen. Whether we are allergic or not. Traidl-HoffmannCo-authored a Recent study That Higher pollen counts were associated with higher COVID infection rates. According to the authors, pollen The body is entered and Disrupts ItAntiviral immune reaction. However, eAccording to xperts, this area requires more research.  

A lady in a field of flowers sneezing into a tissue

People who are allergic to pollen should stay home on days with high pollen count days

Preparing for the pollen season  

When pollen season gets underway, thThere are some precautions you should take.Who is ose? Are at risk, have asthma, or other inflammatory conditions They can be taken to limit their exposure.  

It’s a good idea not to go outside and to keep your windows shut. on high pollen count days. Wearing a maskThese days, side by sideIt is highly recommended.  

In the meantime, botanist Johannes Mazomeit Stresses thatnYou who Comes into contact withWear gloves and cover your face when handling ragweed. To dispose it properly pYou can remove the roots of the plant and wrap it in a plastic bag before putting it in the residual waste container. You should not put it on your compost pile.

Interviewees mentioned in this article were featured by DW’s “On the Green Fence” podcast about the environment. Listen to the episode on climate change and allergies Here.

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