May 17, 2023 - Climate

Allergy season drags on in Northwest Arkansas

Data: Climate Central; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Allergy season in Northwest Arkansas increased by 17 days on average between 1970 and 2021, per an analysis from Climate Central, a nonprofit climate news organization, Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng report.

  • That's based on the number of days between the last freeze each spring and the first freeze each fall — the annual window during which seasonal allergy sufferers are most likely to rely on an antihistamine.

The big picture: Allergy season increased by 15 days on average between 1970 and 2021 across about 200 U.S. cities.

Why it matters: The lengthening allergy season is tied to climate change, with major health ramifications for the roughly one-quarter of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies — and for respiratory health broadly.

  • "Earlier spring and longer periods of freeze-free days mean that plants have more time to flower and release allergy-inducing pollen," per Climate Central.
  • From 1990 to 2018, pollen counts increased 21% nationwide, with the greatest increases in the Midwest and Texas, according to a 2021 study, Axios' Arielle Dreher reports.

Yes, but: Allergy seasons shortened in a handful of cities during the timeframe, including Denver (-15 days) and Charlotte (-9 days).

Of note: Cities in the Deep South and parts of California were left out of the analysis because they don't experience traditional freezing seasons like other parts of the country.

What's next: Ongoing climate change means further deviation from what was once considered the norm.

  • "We do expect that areas that haven't previously had substantial pollen seasons will potentially start to experience pollen seasons," William Anderegg, director of the Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy at the University of Utah, told Arielle.

The bottom line: If you feel like seasonal allergies are suddenly a bigger part of your life, here's some solid data backing that up.


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