The World Allergy Organization (WAO), an international umbrella organization whose members consist of 97 regional and national allergology and clinical immunology societies from around the world, addressed the theme of “Pollen Allergies – Adapting to a Changing Climate” during World Allergy Week 2016 in April.
When Atlanta Allergy & Asthma physicians are asked as to why the pollen count seems to grow higher every year. The WAO offers the following explanation, “Data show that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are increasing which leads to overall warming trends; plants are producing more pollen which results in more pollen in the air and therefore increased allergen exposure.” The attribution for that statement comes from a 2013 scholarly article titled “Allergenic Pollen, A Review of the Production, Release, Distribution and Health Impacts.”
Anecdotally in metro Atlanta, March 2016 witnessed 11 days in the “extremely high” range for the pollen count whereas March 2015 had only one. Pollen season started later in 2015, as April had 10 days in the “extremely high” range, the last of occurred on April 12. In 2014 and 2013, the pollen count did not reach into the “extremely high” range at all in March but in 2012 it saw some of the highest counts ever recorded in metro Atlanta.
“Data show that the pollen allergy season is arriving earlier but is not ending earlier,” said Atlanta Allergy & Asthma’s Dr. Stanley Fineman, who sits on the board of the WAO. “Each year is different. We are seeing a longer season mostly because of warmer temperatures.”
Fineman said that he has noticed that locally pollen season seems to be lasting between six and eight weeks in more recent years.
“We have been keeping the pollen count for more than 30 years in metro Atlanta and the numbers do seem to be not only starting earlier but also growing higher than we have ever seen,” he said. “The five highest pollen counts on record have all come since 2012.”
According to the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), pollen allergy prevalence in children ages 13 to 14 across the world is 22.1 percent.
The safest way to manage allergy symptoms is to treat them before they begin to manifest themselves. Atlanta Allergy & Asthma’s board-certified allergists are available to discuss this initiative of World Allergy Week and any topic related to pollen season.