June 18, 2024

Experts Issue Warning: Climate Change Leading to Increased Allergies Among Canadians

Climate Change Leading to Increased Allergies Among Canadians

Over the past couple of years, Daniela Mora-Fisher and her husband have found themselves frequently rushing their toddler to the hospital. Mora-Fisher described how a simple cold would quickly escalate into wheezing and eventually turn into a full-blown crisis. Her three-year-old son, Julian, has been grappling with respiratory distress since he was around 18 months old.

As a foreign-trained physician who currently works as a researcher at a Toronto doctor’s office, Mora-Fisher has a hunch that a combination of allergies and viruses could be responsible for triggering what might potentially be asthma in her son. Although Julian has been seen by specialists at the local hospital’s asthma clinic, they have informed her that they need to wait until he reaches the appropriate age to conduct the necessary breathing tests for a definitive diagnosis.

In their relentless pursuit to minimize potential allergens, Mora-Fisher and her husband have taken every possible measure, including relocating from an older residence in an attempt to escape mold and the presence of heavy bus traffic, which they believed could have contributed to air pollution.

According to Dr. Susan Waserman, division director of clinical immunology and allergy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., there has been a noticeable increase in allergies among both children and adults in recent years.

Climate Change Leading to Increased Allergies Among Canadians

According to Dr. Melissa Lem, president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and a family physician in Vancouver, the increasing prevalence of allergies and asthma can be attributed to climate change. Dr. Susan Waserman, agrees, stating:

“We have been observing this trend for decades, with various allergic conditions such as eczema, allergic rhinitis, asthma, and food allergies becoming more prevalent.”

Data collected by Aerobiology, a Canadian company specializing in monitoring airborne allergens, aligns with research indicating that the average pollen season in North America has extended by approximately three weeks in recent decades. Additionally, the studies reveal that there has been a 20 percent increase in the release of pollen by plants. These findings highlight the correlation between climate change and the worsening allergy conditions experienced by individuals.

According to Daniel Coates, a spokesperson from Aerobiology, there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of pollen and higher concentrations in the air each year.

“This phenomenon is attributed to the relationship between pollen and warmer weather. As temperatures rise due to climate change, there is a correlation between the increased pollen levels in the air and the overall warmer conditions.”

According to Waserman, there is a noticeable increase in allergies among younger children compared to previous years. Allergies that were traditionally believed to manifest around the age of five are now being observed at an earlier age.

“I see a lot of environmental allergy a couple of years earlier than that now,” she stated.

This trend indicates a higher number of individuals developing allergies at an earlier stage in life. Lem further emphasizes that climate change is not only affecting pollen allergies but also exacerbating other allergic conditions.

According to Lem, climate change contributes to the increase in allergies through various mechanisms. Flooding, for instance, can lead to higher levels of indoor mould, which can trigger allergies in individuals sensitive to mould spores. Additionally, the factors driving climate change, such as the burning of fossil fuels, result in the release of inhalable particles into the air. These particles not only directly irritate the respiratory system but can also stimulate the release of immunoglobulin E, which is associated with allergic responses in the body.

Lem highlights that climate change is directly connected to the rising incidence of wildfires in Canada, which exacerbates the issue of allergies. As a family doctor, Lem has personally witnessed an increasing number of patients reporting allergies, even if they had no previous history of allergic reactions. Additionally, Lem observes more respiratory symptoms flaring up during smoke season, indicating a correlation between increased allergies and exposure to wildfire smoke.

Climate Change Leading to Increased Allergies Among Canadians

Lem emphasizes that the various contributing factors are converging to create a significant increase in allergies. According to Cecilia Sierra-Heredia, a research associate at Simon Fraser University, there is a hypothesis that children are facing a double exposure, meaning they are being exposed to multiple allergens and environmental factors simultaneously. This combination of factors is believed to play a role in the rising prevalence of allergies and asthma among children.

Sierra-Heredia highlights that the increased presence of pollen, particulate matter, and pollution in the air can lead to inflammation of the airways, ultimately triggering the development of allergies and asthma. Additionally, she suggests that a genetic predisposition may also play a role in these respiratory conditions.

Mora-Fisher expressed her surprise at the number of toddlers, like Julian, who are experiencing similar breathing issues, indicating a concerning trend among young children. Almost every parent she knows has inhalers for their children, indicating the prevalence of respiratory issues. She believes that the air quality near her home may have contributed to allergic reactions experienced by visiting family members from Ecuador. She noted that these family members do not have any allergies or similar problems when they are in their home country.

However, whenever her family members visit her in Toronto, they consistently experience rashes and sneezing. Besides addressing climate change on a broader scale, there are also immediate actions that individuals with allergies, as well as their healthcare providers, can take to alleviate symptoms and provide relief.

According to Sierra-Heredia, using air purifiers at home can be beneficial for individuals with allergies. If pollen is the primary trigger, it is recommended to change clothes upon entering the house and, if spending significant time outdoors in a park, taking a shower can also help minimize exposure. There have been advancements in allergy medications, as noted by Waserman. Allergy tablets, for instance, have the ability to desensitize individuals to various allergens such as trees, grass, and ragweed.

There is a tendency for people to disregard allergies and endure them silently, but there are solutions available, according to Sierra-Heredia.

“It’s important to address the impact allergies can have on one’s sleep, concentration, and even academic performance, as these factors significantly affect quality of life. So, instead of ignoring allergies, it is advised to take action and seek appropriate remedies.”

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