Climate change: Hardly any respite for allergy sufferers: pollen season has begun in Germany

Many allergy sufferers have already felt it through watery eyes or the urge to sneeze: the pollen count in Germany is already in full swing due to the mild temperatures.

Climate change: Hardly any respite for allergy sufferers: pollen season has begun in Germany

Many allergy sufferers have already felt it through watery eyes or the urge to sneeze: the pollen count in Germany is already in full swing due to the mild temperatures. As early bloomers, hazel and alder have been in the air for several weeks and, according to the German Pollen Information Service Foundation, are sometimes pollinating with high intensity. The pollen from yews, cypresses, poplars and elms is also flying to more and more places. "With the mild spring air, the flowers of early-flowering tree species pop up in rows and send their dusty cargo ... on a journey," as the foundation reported last week in its weekly pollen forecast. However, due to intermittent rainfall, allergy sufferers would have to be prepared for large fluctuations in exposure. When it rains, the pollen concentration decreases.

According to a survey by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which took place from 2008 to 2011, around 15 percent of Germans suffer from hay fever and almost nine percent from bronchial asthma. While hay fever affects the upper respiratory tract, asthma affects the lungs: those affected have, for example, attacks of shortness of breath. According to the RKI, the frequency of allergic diseases has increased significantly in countries with a Western lifestyle since the 1970s and has stabilized at a high level. The frequency of asthma continues to rise.

The winter months used to be considered a break for allergy sufferers. Experts are now observing that, due to climate change, the times when the last pollen of the previous season disappears and the first of the new season appear almost overlap. This influences the occurrence, frequency and severity of allergic diseases. “Allergy sufferers basically have symptoms all year round,” said Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann, director of environmental medicine at the University Hospital of Augsburg, to the German Press Agency. "They suffer longer and they suffer more because more pollen is flying per day."

Another consequence of climate change is that pollen releases more allergens. According to the allergist, this is not only related to increased temperatures, but also to higher levels of pollutants. Especially in cities it can be observed that plants produce more pollen when there is a high concentration of pollutants - a stress reaction, as Traidl-Hoffmann explained. “This is a plant survival strategy.” After all, pollen counts are used for reproduction. The fact that climate change is bringing new plants and thus new pollen and new allergies to Germany could also become a burden.

According to the doctor, the development is particularly a problem for severe asthmatics and older people. “But of course our children in particular suffer incredibly from it.” If you constantly sneeze or feel exhausted, you may have difficulty concentrating at school. What is the trend for the coming years? "The largest allergy society in the world, the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology, expects that half of Europeans will be allergic by 2050," said Traidl-Hoffmann.

Those affected can use nasal sprays, eye drops and tablets to combat the symptoms. Immunotherapy addresses the cause with injections or tablets (hyposensitization). However, allergy sufferers should begin hyposensitization before the annual allergy symptoms set in, recommended Traidl-Hoffmann.

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