Seasonal allergies are now rife all year round. Thanks to climate change.
Is it Covid? Or is it climate change?
For several years now, we’ve been living in a world where every sneeze, hint of a scratchy throat or stuffy nose, gives pause. Is it Covid? Swine flu? Just a cold? For a growing number of adults, those symptoms are turning out to be hallmarks of something they've never had to deal with before: Seasonal allergies2.
This year, World Allergy Week is focusing on managing allergic diseases amid environmental changes.
In South Africa, as many as one in five children suffers with asthma, while allergic rhinitis is even more common with between 30 to 40% of children needing medication for the condition3. Both of these conditions are more common in urban areas, and the most common triggers include dust, pollen and mould – all of which can be linked back to climate change.
But how is this connected to climate change?
The increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has contributed to the disturbed seasonal release of pollen₁, bringing on the pollen season much earlier, and increasing the severity of pollen associated allergies.
Secondly, as the world warms with climate change, the air holds more moisture, nearly 7% for every degree Celsius. This explains the increase in allergens associated with mould spores that grow in wet and humid conditions..
Climate change is an environmental issue, but it is also a serious threat to our public health. Studies show, repeatedly, that climate change affects human health, but it remains a challenge to accurately estimate the scale and impact of many climate-sensitive health risks.
Trevor Brewer, Director of air treatment specialist, Solenco, says that while individual households can only do so much to limit their impact of climate change, there is a lot they can do to improve the air quality in their homes. He suggests investing in a good air purifier as a start.
“Allergy sufferers should look for a purifier that uses HEPA technology, specifically an H13 HEPA filter, which forces air through an ultra-fine mesh to trap pollutants and airborne allergens. An H13 HEPA filter, like that in the Solenco Air Purifiers, removes 99.8% of particles as small as 0.3 microns (which are too small to see) from the air,” says Brewer.
Brewer also recommends that people living in damp or humid regions should make use of a dehumidifier. Too much moisture in the air can encourage mould, which can bring about respiratory system issues and allergies, and a dehumidifier will prevent damp and mould in your home.
Brewer notes that climate change is global, affecting everyone. Rising temperatures, warming oceans, rising sea levels, and accelerated melting of glaciers are some of the measurable effects of climate change, along with intense droughts, increased air pollution, water scarcity, earlier and more intense pollen seasons, severe fires, flooding, catastrophic storms, and declining biodiversity. And, says Brewer, while it’s difficult to immediately control the weather, outdoor pollution, and ultimately climate change, you can control your immediate environment by investing in home air treatment solutions. “It is possible to take your health into your own hands even as climate change continues to worsen,” says Brewer.