Climate Change effect: Hay Fever On The Rise In India

Climate Change effect: Hay Fever On The Rise In India

For millions of people in India, the annual changes in season bring an onslaught of itchy eyes, wheezing, sneezing, and other symptoms sparked by ‘allergic rhinitis’, which most people know as hay fever.

Mumbai: For millions of people in India, the annual changes in season bring an onslaught of itchy eyes, wheezing, sneezing, and other symptoms sparked by ‘allergic rhinitis’, which most people know as hay fever. And the torments are being exacerbated by global warming, which is causing plants to generate more pollen than before, helping invasive weeds to spread and extending pollen seasons, warns Blueair, a world leader in indoor air purification technologies designed to remove airborne contaminants.

“There is now convincing scientific evidence that climate change is spurring increased pollen concentrations, resulting in increased allergen exposure and ever-more allergy sufferers,” said Bengt Rittri, founder and CEO of Blueair. Mr. Rittri said growing allergic rhinitis rates highlight the need for people to be made aware that they can alleviate the problem using indoor air purifiers with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) air filters at home or in the workplace to create safer indoor havens.

According to new studies, an estimated 25% of India’s population today suffers from allergic diseases, out of which one in five people suffer from pollen allergy. House dust mites (50%) is the leading allergen followed by pollen (23%), insect (16%) and food (1-5%) allergens.

But the number of Indians suffering pollen allergies – once an unknown phenomenon in India - is increasing. Blueair notes that the latest research indicates there has been a 15-20% increase of pollen allergy incidence in the country in recent years.

Pollen allergens from trees, flowers and grasses cause respiratory allergies which are witnessed highest amongst children and young adults (5 to 20 years) at 45% prevalence. The trend increases at the onset of spring, summer and early fall.

Dr. PM. Bhujang, President of Association of Hospital (52 member hospitals in Maharashtra), said, “It is a matter of concern that prevalence of allergic diseases, related disorders and asthma is rising around the world. Some of the negative impacts of modernizations have added to the problem. It is the need of the hour that all stakeholders like physicians, other healthcare workers, medical educators, policy makers, public health experts and healthcare authorities should have an integrated approach to prevent allergic disorders’ and to address the needs of patients who suffer from such illnesses.”

Higher carbon dioxide levels, rising temperatures and extended spring seasons are related to climate change which has significantly enhanced the problems of people suffering respiratory problems such as hay fever. Also rapid industrialization and urbanization has contributed to the growing levels of hay fever symptoms.

Speaking on the eve of World Allergy Week, Blueair chief executive Bengt Rittri said people need to take greater individual responsibility to protect themselves against rising levels of allergens in the air they are breathing.

“With hay fever and diseases like asthma on the rise, we are very much what we breathe. There is little we can do about bad air outside except wear masks, but inside our homes and workplaces we can create safer havens by using air purifiers such as Blueair's to remove allergens before they attack our sensitive respiratory system,” said Mr. Rittri.

The World Allergy Organisation (WAO), an international alliance of 97 regional and national allergy, asthma and immunology societies, says allergies such as hay fever are increasing in prevalence and severity and will continue to be a concern as temperatures rise and exposures increase. Over 400 million people around the world are estimated to suffer from the misery caused by allergic rhinitis.

- Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, a team of scientists in 2015 concluded that 'Climate change and ragweed seed dispersal in current and future suitable areas will increase airborne pollen concentrations, which may consequently heighten the incidence and prevalence of ragweed allergy.’ Ragweed pollen can provoke severe allergic reactions and has been shown to extend the hay fever season from summer to autumn. A native of North America, ragweed has been aggressively spreading to other areas, including Europe since the 1960s. (Pollen from the plant not only induces severe allergic reactions but also extends the hay fever season from summer to autumn.

- The Union for Concerned Scientists, a U.S. group that lobbies for scientific research to be directed away from military technologies and toward solving pressing environmental and social problems, has addressed how changing climate worsens allergy symptoms. With over 40 million Americans suffering spring allergies, UCS noted how researchers have found that changes in climate impose additional strains on those with pollen allergies.

- World Allergy Week is an annual initiative of the World Allergy Organisation, which established the initiative with the vision of bringing together multiple stakeholder groups including physicians, medical educators, patient advocates, policy-makers, the general public, and health care authorities for an integrated approach to addressing the needs of patients who suffer from allergic diseases and asthma and those who provide care for them.

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