Why Climate Change Is Making Your Allergies Worse

when trees weeds and grasses mate they make a mess thousands of pollen grains their reproductive material fly into the air and anyone with allergies knows you don’t get too close or else but what is it about that fluffy stuff that sets off the summer sneezes anyway [Applause] each year 26 million Americans experience an allergic reaction sometimes nicknamed hay fever the culprit pollen and to help itself get where it needs to go pollen grains are extremely light and sticky the wind can carry them for thousands of kilometres across state lines and over mountains you can even find pollen over 600 kilometres out to sea with not a tree in sight in other words the sticky stuff gets everywhere and sometimes it sticks to places that it shouldn’t like your close car and especially your eyes nose and lungs and that is when the trouble starts your sniffling and your coughing and your eyes are running an itching dry nose buggery nose watery eyes but here’s the odd thing about pollen on its own it’s harmless it’s not a virus or a parasite that can give you a disease or damage your organs it only becomes a problem when your body sees it as one our body reacts to it basically the protein and the pollen and for some reason our body has recognized it as foreign your immune system has a merciless procedure for dealing with intruders the first line of defense our y-shaped proteins called antibodies they’re like a built-in security system that guards your nose eyes and mouth along with other tissues when they bump into a grain of pollen they sound the alarm now their main goal is to get that pollen out of your system which they do by sending a rush of white blood cells to the scene which then produce a chemical called histamine histamine has a few ways to get the job done first it irritates your nose forcing you to sneeze which blasts some of the pollen away second it expands your blood vessels opening tiny gaps between the cells that make up the wall opening a path for a squadron of immune cells to squeeze out and attack the pollen grains finally it tells your nose to make more mucus which traps the invader and flushes it out of your nasal passages mission accomplished histamine also flushes out your eyes in a similar way it irritates your eyes causing them to swell and tear up and if pollen reaches your lungs histamine irritates the lining causing you to cough it out the end result you’re a snotty miserable mess and since different plants reproduce at different times in the spring and summer the assault can last for months but hey at least now your system is free of that dangerous what was it again pollen now pollen isn’t the only irritant that can cause this type of reaction people react the foods they react to pollens they react to chemicals directly antibiotics they react to beestings all of those are the same type of immune reaction however pollen is one of the most common allergies but scientists aren’t entirely sure why what they do know is that some people have more sensitive immune systems than others and that’s based on a bunch of factors like genetics when you are first exposed to pollen and how much of it you were exposed to all of that influences what your body is going to do is what kind of reaction is going to have regardless of how you ended up with allergies one thing is clear they suck but you’re going to be really miserable and some people are very very uncomfortable and I mean it leads to lost work in law school seasonal allergies cost the u.s. 18 billion dollars a year in lost work hours and medical bills and there’s more bad news climate change is making it even worse a recent series of studies showed that over the past 20 years as global temperatures have climbed pollen counts have risen with them plus the earlier and longer periods of warm weather have stretched prime pollen season out longer than ever yes if it’s warmer which is what climate change is doing you’re gonna have more of those pollinating species thriving the good news is there are ways to keep the summer sneezes at bay like antihistamines these meds grab onto those irritating histamine molecules preventing them from working hence the name antihistamine so as the skies cloud with yellow horror dust and one counts skyrocket grab a tissue pop an antihistamine and hope that winter returns soon [Music]