Climate change could increase ER visits for allergy-related asthma

May 10, 2017, American Geophysical Union
More children could wind up in hospital emergency rooms suffering from allergy-induced asthma if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and cause longer oak pollen seasons, according to a new study. Credit: CC0 Public Domain

More children could wind up in hospital emergency rooms suffering from allergy-induced asthma if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and cause longer oak pollen seasons, according to a new study.

The new research finds that if continue to increase through the end of this century, the oak season in some areas could extend by up to eight days. People with oak pollen allergies, particularly children, will have longer exposure to pollen that can induce . That could increase the associated hospital for allergic asthma by 10 percent in the Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast combined, the new study finds.

Allergic asthma associated with oak pollen sends more than 20,000 people to emergency rooms every year, and the increase in pollen could result in a 10 percent increase in hospital ER visits by 2090, according to the study's authors.

These additional ER visits would add an estimated $10.4 million to the $346.2 million cost that would be expected under baseline conditions through 2090, according to the new study published in GeoHealth, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

"We found that the severe change scenario had a substantial impact on public health," said Susan Anenberg, an environmental scientist at Environmental Health Analytics, LLC, in Washington, D.C., and lead author of the new study.

The study is part of a growing area of research on the health impacts of climate change and the economic burden to individuals. Previous research has already shown that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has caused ragweed, another strong allergen, to produce higher concentrations of pollen, according to the study's authors.

The new study could help doctors anticipate changes in allergic asthma as the climate changes, said Samantha Ahdoot, a pediatrician in Alexandria, Virginia, and assistant professor of pediatrics at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.

"I would hope that this research would help the public and policymakers to understand that changes that occur in the environment, whether it is plant life or climate, trickle down and ultimately affect the health of people," she said.

In the new study, Anenberg and her colleagues calculated the number of emergency room visits for allergic asthma across the Southeast, Midwest, and Northeast today and in the future using observed relationships between oak pollen and asthma ER visits in Atlanta, Cincinnati, and New York City.

They found that there were 21,200 oak pollen-related allergic ER visits in 2010. Of those visits, 70 percent were children under the age of 18, indicating that children may be more vulnerable to climate change-related health impacts, according to Anenberg.

The study's authors used climate models and known relationships between temperature, precipitation, and oak pollen to estimate the oak pollen season length under both a moderate climate change scenario and a severe climate change scenario.

Combining the emergency room visit and climate model information, the study's authors found that the most severe climate change scenario would increase ER visits in the three regions by 5 percent in 2050 and by 10 percent in 2090. Under a moderate climate change scenario, the number of visits would only increase by 4 percent, avoiding more than half of the emergency incidents in the severe scenario, the study found.

"The impact of oak pollen on human health in the United States is extensive and likely worsening over time with climate change," Anenberg said. "Our results could be underestimating a much bigger problem, since environmental changes could also affect other pollen types and other outcomes."

Explore further: Pollen may impair pupils' performance

More information: Susan C. Anenberg et al. Impacts of oak pollen on allergic asthma in the United States and potential influence of future climate change, GeoHealth (2017). DOI: 10.1002/2017GH000055

Related Stories

Pollen may impair pupils' performance

May 4, 2017
Spring is exam time – and pollen season. It's also a bad combination for pupils suffering from pollen allergies, or hay fever.

Air pollution increases the risk of allergies and asthma

March 14, 2017
This year, the pollen season started later but more abruptly, which caused greater problems in some cases. At a press conference of MedUni Vienna's Pollen Monitoring Service, allergy experts, together with the IGAV (special ...

Future climate change may increase asthma attacks in children

August 30, 2011
Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers have found that climate change may lead to more asthma-related health problems in children, and more emergency room (ER) visits in the next decade.

Pollen allergies have increased among Swedish adults

June 21, 2016
The prevalence of pollen allergies among adults in Sweden has increased. However, the prevalence of allergies to furred animals, mites or mold has not. These were the results of a new study at Sahlgrenska Academy.

Pollen exposure during pregnancy affects child's risk of early asthma

January 7, 2013
A woman's exposure to high pollen levels in late pregnancy increases the risk of early asthma in the child, according to a group of researchers at Sweden's Umeå University in a recent study.

Recommended for you

A synthetic approach to helping the immune system thwart infections

February 22, 2018
Yale researchers have developed a set of synthetic molecules that may help boost the strength of a key, virus-fighting protein.

Scientists find molecular link between Vitamin A derivative and mouse intestinal health

February 22, 2018
New research shows that all-trans-retinoic acid (atRA), the active form of vitamin A, regulates immune system responses in the mouse intestine by controlling expression of the protein HIC1 in cells known as innate lymphoid ...

Animal study shows how to retrain the immune system to ease food allergies

February 21, 2018
Treating food allergies might be a simple matter of teaching the immune system a new trick, researchers at Duke Health have found.

Preventive treatment for peanut allergies succeeds in study

February 20, 2018
The first treatment to help prevent serious allergic reactions to peanuts may be on the way. A company said Tuesday that its daily capsules of peanut powder helped children build tolerance in a major study.

'Icebreaker' protein opens genome for T cell development, researchers find

February 20, 2018
Almost all cells in the human body have identical DNA sequences, yet there are 200-plus cell types with different sizes, shapes, and chemical compositions. Determining what parts of the genome are read to make protein and ...

Infection site affects how a virus spreads through the body

February 20, 2018
A person is more likely to get infected by HIV through anal intercourse than vaginal, but no one knows quite why. A new study by scientists at the Gladstone Institutes shows that infection sites could affect the immune system's ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.