World Allergy Week 2024: Allergy is a health concern in both developed and developing countries. Environmental factors and host factors contribute to allergies in people. Host factors such as race, genetics, age and gender are responsible for triggering allergies. Every year, World Allergy Week is observed from June 23 to June 29 to discuss the ways we can alleviate the risk of allergies, and boost immunity. Climate change has a crucial role to play in the increasing risk of allergies throughout the world. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr. P Venkata Krishnan, Sr. Consultant, Internal Medicine at Artemis Hospital Gurugram, said, ” Climate change is a significant environmental challenge that has wide-ranging effects on health, including the prevalence and severity of allergies. Understanding the connection between climate change and allergies is necessary for managing and mitigating its impact on public health.”

Understanding the connection between climate change and allergies is necessary for managing and mitigating its impact on public health.(Unsplash)

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Dr Sunita Chhapola Shukla, Founder and Director, Mumbai Allergy Centre and Head of Dept, Allergy Sciences, Sir HN Reliance Hospital further explained, “Allergic diseases are on the rise in India due to factors like industrialisation, urbanisation and lifestyle changes. Pollution is related to allergic diseases like allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, allergic conjunctivitis and allergic skin diseases. Pollutants cause oxidative stress which leads to inflammation and hyper reactivity of the airways leading to symptoms like sneezing, running itchy nose, cough, wheezing and itchy watering eyes.”

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Climate change and allergies: How are they related?

Longer and more intense pollen seasons:

One of the most direct effects of climate change on allergies is the extension and intensification of pollen seasons. Rising global temperatures and heightened carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels lead to longer growing seasons for plants, resulting in prolonged periods of pollen production. Higher CO₂ levels also stimulate plants to produce more pollen, triggering allergic reactions in people.

Increased pollen potency:

Climate change extends pollen seasons and increases the potency of pollens. Increased CO₂ levels can enhance the allergenicity of pollen grains, meaning they contain higher concentrations of proteins that trigger allergic reactions. This makes the pollen more potent and can lead to more severe symptoms in people with respiratory allergies, such as allergic rhinitis and asthma.

Changes in allergen distribution:

Climate change also affects the geographical distribution of allergenic plants. Warmer temperatures enable certain plants to grow in new regions where they previously could not thrive. This means that people who were not previously exposed to specific allergens may start experiencing allergic reactions.

Impact on indoor allergens:

Climate change influences indoor allergens. Increased humidity and warmer temperatures create favourable conditions for mold growth and dust mites which are common indoor allergens. More intense and frequent storms and flooding, also driven by climate change, can lead to water damage in homes, further promoting mold growth. These conditions can enhance the symptoms for people with indoor allergies and asthma.