School of Public Health/ESSIC Study Finds Climate Change Linked to Seasonal Allergies

Climate change might be worsening your spring allergies, reports a new study from University of Maryland researchers including ESSIC Professor Raghu Murtugudde.

Using data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), the researchers calculated the median spring start date (the “start-of-season” date) for each county in the contiguous US between 2001–2013.  This data was then compared with findings from the National Health Interview Survey concerning hay fever prevalence.

Researchers found that adults living in counties with an early-onset spring season were 14% more likely to acquire hay fever than those that lived in counties with normal spring start dates.  Likewise, adults living in counties with very late spring start dates had 18% higher odds of experiencing these allergies than those that lived in places with normal spring start dates.

“We show that such climate change-driven ecological changes are directly linked to allergic disease burden in the United States,” co-author Dr. Chengsheng Jiang, Research Assistant Professor at UMD’s School of Public Health, told CBS news. “Even a relatively small change in the timing of tree flowering can have a significant economic impact given that 25 million American adults already suffer from hay fever each year.”

Murtugudde is an Affiliate Professor for the Department of Geology currently serving as a Visiting Professor in Bombay, India.  He works primarily in climate studies, exploring the co-evolution of life and climate and what it means for sustainability.  He also writes a blog hosted on the ESSIC website.

The study was led by Amir Sapkota, associate professor at the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health.  To read the full paper, see here: “Associations between alteration in plant phenology and hay fever prevalence among US adults: Implication for changing climate”.