Warmer weather, poor air quality to blame for severe allergy season

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 6:18 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The summer allergy season has been a rough one for allergy sufferers for a variety of reasons. This summer has been hotter than normal and the poor air quality can be attributed to climate change and some may be experiencing worsening allergy symptoms because not having to mask-up outdoors anymore.

Dusti Mielke is a registered respiratory therapist for HSHS Sacred Heart hospital in Eau Claire. She says reactions to pollen spores, dust and other particles in the air can vary by person. They can be your typical mild symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes and an irritated throat to more severe symptoms.

“You can develop mucus in your airways that can make it more difficult to breathe,” Mielke said. “You can have a reaction further down your airways that can make it harder to breathe”

Doctor James Boulter is a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and public health and environmental studies at UW-Eau Claire and has been studying climate change for over 20 years. He says a particularly bothersome plant is staying around longer because the warmer weather.

“One interesting study that actually had a data point right here in La Crosse, showed that the growing season for ragweed, which is sort of the nemesis for a lot of people because of its pollen, has actually already lengthened over the last 20 years by about two-weeks time,” Boulter said.

In Eau Claire last week, the sky looked hazy due to the wild fires affecting air quality. Mielke says this poor air quality and seasonal allergies can have a big impact on people with respiratory conditions.

“I would definitely say our asthma population have a little bit more of a reaction because their airways are so sensitive,” Mielke said. “When everything in the air is kicked up and ramped up, it can set those asthma exasperations off a little bit.”

Boulter agrees those with respiratory conditions are more at risk for severe symptoms and reactions.

“Coupled with the worsened air quality and underlying respiratory diseases, that can be actually quite dangerous and send people to the hospital,” Boulter said.

Mielke says wearing a mask when outdoors during high-pollen counts can help block some of the particles that could get into your body. She also recommends if you want to to lawn work or gardening, to avoid the middle of the day.

“It’s best to do that at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day when the pollen is settled,” Mielke said.

Another tip of advice Mielke wants to stress is to keep your hands clean and away from your face.

“We have a tendency to want to touch our eyes, touch your mouth, your nose,” Mielke said. “Just make sure you’re washing your hands as much as possible to get that pollen, dust or anything off your hands.”

If you do suffer from allergies, Mielke suggests taking allergy medication to alleviate symptoms. She also recommends if you have asthma or a similar condition, to carry a rescue inhaler.

Mielke says it cab be difficult to tell the difference between allergies and an infection. She says if your unsure if you’re sick or it’s allergies, seeking medical help can be a good option.

“If you develop a fever or if you have body aches, you should go get tested and treat this as more of a cold than an allergic reaction or allergies to the outside environment,” Mielke said.

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