News / Health

Miserable Allergies? Blame Global Warming

Studies show greenhouse effect increases pollen

Allergist Burt Wolf (left) blames global warming for the increased pollen that aggravates allergy sufferers.
Allergist Burt Wolf (left) blames global warming for the increased pollen that aggravates allergy sufferers.


Mike Osborne

It's springtime in the United States, a time for many Americans to enjoy the warmer weather and flowering plants. However, it can also can be a difficult time of year for the one-in-four people who suffers from seasonal allergies.

It's also a tremendous drain on the economy. The U.S. loses an estimated $700 million a year in productivity and Americans spend billions more on allergy medications and treatments.

Bad spring

This has been an especially bad spring for allergies in the southeastern city of Murfreesboro, near Nashville, Tennessee.

It's hard to beat the American South in springtime. Every tree and shrub seems to be in bloom. But all that beauty comes at a heavy price. Because of its climate and vegetation, Tennessee is routinely listed as one of the worst places in the country to live if you suffer from seasonal allergies.

Bruce Lyon, a physical trainer, is in great shape. But when spring rolls around each year, he feels all his strength and energy melt away.

"This is the saddest thing. On the most beautiful days, especially when the spring starts around and you're ready to get out and do something," says Lyon. "Then I'm so tired I didn't even feel like getting out and doing anything. I felt like 'I think I'm going to go back home and sleep.'"

It's hard to believe something as small as a grain of pollen could cause so much misery. But in vast numbers, the effect can be overwhelming. Allergist Burt Wolf says this year has been worse than usual.

It's hard to believe something as small as a grain of pollen could cause so much misery. But in vast numbers, the effect can be overwhelming.
It's hard to believe something as small as a grain of pollen could cause so much misery. But in vast numbers, the effect can be overwhelming.

Blame it on global warming?

"I mean we don't even need a calendar for a certain segment of our patient population. We know when allergy season begins for them and how it affects them. But this year many of our patients were calling two or three weeks earlier. "

Wolf believes global warming may be the culprit.

"Increased temperature to a certain degree and also increased CO2, or so-called greenhouse effect," says Wolf. "These things, in some studies, have shown to increase pollen over the last decades, 60 to 90 percent."

Allergy sufferer Steve Melton does what he can to avoid exposure to spring pollens, but it's nearly impossible.

"Leave it outside for five to six hours and the pollen residue that's on your car, you can actually write your name in," says Melton. "That's how heavy it gets. And that time of year is basically the worst time."

Melton says he can tell before he even gets out of bed what kind of day it's going to be.

"The runny nose, the watery eyes, and the sneezing…that's the one, two, three symptoms that tell me every day whether it's gonna be tough outside today."

Allergy relief

Allergies can not be cured but the symptoms can be treated. Doctor Wolf says several new medications have reached the market in recent years and allergy injections often work for more severe cases.

"The medicines are so good and so safe that there should be very few people who have to suffer day to day with allergies," says the doctor. "So people should seek care because it's out there, it's safe and they don't have to live their lives sniffling and wheezing and suffering."

With his allergies back under control, Bruce Lyon is free to enjoy one of those beautiful southern springs.

"As a matter of fact, I'm picking up about 12 flats of flowers tomorrow from a client of mine who's in the landscape business, and going to set them out for my mom this weekend. So this allows me to do that without being miserable."

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs