Climate Change, Pollen & Your Skin!
Springtime is here – and with it mercifully lighter clothing and freer time outdoors. For allergy sufferers this also signals the onset of sneezing, watery eyes, and scratchy throats. And seasonal allergies can also take a toll on the skin. The bad news: research increasingly suggests that allergy season could get worse as the climate gets hotter.
Climate Change Might Be Worsening Seasonal Allergies
The National Wildlife Federation and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation concluded in a 2010 report that climate change was affecting pollen production, along with other natural and man-made allergens. Warmer temperatures mean a noticeably longer flowering season. In addition, since carbon dioxide fuels photosynthesis, higher CO2 levels may lead plants to grow larger and generate more pollen. And to make matters worse, climate change seemed to favor the growth of some highly allergenic varietals such as oak trees, hickory trees and ragweed.
Two recent studies added to these early warnings. Using pollen data across North America from 1990 to 2018, a 2021 study published by the National Academy of Sciences observed that the North American pollen season had lengthened by about 3 weeks in that time span, while pollen concentrations had risen by more than a fifth. It also found climate warming and carbon dioxide concentrations very likely to be prime drivers of both changes. And earlier this year (2022), another study predicted that by the end of the century, allergy season could begin yet a solid month earlier and pollen emissions could triple if carbon emissions are not curbed.
So if it feels like your seasonal allergies are becoming more severe and longer-lasting, you are probably not dreaming it.
Pollen Allergies and Your Skin
You know to watch for contact allergens in your skincare. Pollen allergies might also make your skin feel dry and itchy. It is possible to develop a rash from contact with airborne allergens. More likely though, the itch is not due to pollen touching your skin, Rather it may be caused to your immune system jumping into action.
Allergens trigger the release of histamine into the bloodstream, to boost blood flow and open pathways for the immune system to do its work. But histamines also activate nerve receptors which transmit itching signals to the brain. In addition, dilated blood capillaries cause inflammation and swelling such as hives. This is the same process through which an allergic reaction to food might cause itching and hives on chest or arms – leading you to reach for anti-histamine remedies.
Add it all together, and predictions of higher pollen counts start looking like a bad omen for your skin! Unfortunately, you can’t really avoid pollen altogether. But knowing the connection, you can minimize its impact.
To alleviate skin issues related to pollen allergies, take simple steps to minimize exposure and reduce symptoms.
- 🍃 Obviously, avoid the great outdoors when pollen counts go through the roof.
- 🍃 Wash bedsheets and pillowcases weekly.
- 🍃 Try to destress: stress can boost histamine production and worsen allergic reactions.
- 🍃 Don’t subject your skin to any more aggression during allergy season – be extra careful to stay away from contact allergens.
- 🍃 Wear sunscreen. If your skin is already irritated by allergies, stay out of the sun.
- 🍃 Moisturize to prep your skin against dryness and inflammation.