May 17, 2023 - Climate

Richmond's allergy season is getting longer

Length of allergy season in Richmond
Climate Central

Allergy season in Richmond increased by nearly a month on average between 1970 and 2021, per an analysis from Climate Central, a nonprofit climate news organization.

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

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, per Climate Central, with big health ramifications for the roughly one-quarter of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies — and for respiratory health more 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 by 21% nationwide, with the greatest increases in the Midwest and Texas, according to a 2021 study, Axios' Arielle Dreher reports.

Be smart: Allergy season is terrible in Richmond in spring and fall, but fall is usually the worst because of ragweed, which grows extremely well in Virginia.

Zoom in: Allergy season has dramatically lengthened in several cities — including, most notably, Reno, Nevada, where it's now 99 days longer than it was in 1970.

  • Zoom out: The "freeze free" season has lengthened by at least a month in more than 30 cities.

Yes, but: Allergy seasons shortened in a handful of cities between 1970-2021, 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 the way other parts of the country do.

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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