Allergy sufferers face worsening symptoms from changing climate

Published: May. 14, 2023 at 8:20 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Sniffling, sneezing and scratchy eyes are the unwelcomed part of springtime, and experts say it could continue to get worse for allergy sufferers as the climate changes.

While the increase of pollen is welcomed by the busy bees of Vermont, it is not so welcomed by Vermonters with allergies. Kathy McDonald of Williston says she’s still waiting for the season to kick it, but when it does, she goes through the gamut of symptoms.

“It definitely has gotten worse in the last couple of years,” McDonald said.

Experts from UVM say it’s not just in your head. The growing season is extending, so allergy season is also getting longer. Since 1970, Vermont has tacked on an additional 29 freeze-free days to the growing season due to climate change, bringing allergies earlier and creating more severe symptoms for more Vermonters, according to Dr. Megan Malgeri with the UVM Medical Center. Meanwhile, pollen counts have increased by more than 20% since 1990.

“We’re having more pollen in the air and interestingly the pollen is more potent,” Malgeri said.

She says on top of the changing climate extending the growing season, the warmer and wetter weather is encouraging new and added plant growth, and the resource plants need most is creating more pollen.

“Even the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making this problem worse for people,” the doctor said.

Malgeri also says if allergies are new to you or they feel like they are getting worse, talk to your doctor about the best mitigation efforts for you.

Vermonters say there are still plenty of plants to bloom to gauge the severity of the allergy season, but for those like Kathy McDonald, the prospect of even worse allergies is concerning.