As pollen seasons expand, so does the opportunity for patient education

Minnesota Department of Health

With the ragweed pollen season upon us, now is a good time for allergy sufferers to learn about steps they can take to keep allergies and asthma under control.

Due to Minnesota’s changing climate, allergy sufferers have a much longer season of suffering. Ragweed pollen season is now 18 to 21 days longer than it was in the mid-1990s. Pollen for ragweed is highly allergenic and can travel very long distances.

The effects of climate change in Minnesota are already being seen. While climate change impacts everyone, certain populations are more susceptible to the health impacts. In particular, health care providers should be mindful of the diseases or conditions exacerbated by pollen to avoid disparities by race, ethnicity, poverty level or age of the patient.

Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a chronic lung disease, are among the conditions that may be worsened by a longer allergy season and stronger pollen. Health care providers can share information with vulnerable populations about pollen, its potential impacts on chronic health conditions and how to reduce allergic reactions.

Here are some steps those with allergies can take:

• Sign up for pollen alerts. You can get a pollen and mold report for the Twin Cities area from the National Allergy Bureau.

•Become familiar with the type of pollen that triggers your allergies, so you can prevent or reduce symptoms.

•Limit your outdoor activities when pollen counts are high. This will lessen the amount of pollen allergen you inhale and reduce your symptoms.

•Keep windows closed during pollen season and use central air conditioning with a HEPA filter in your home and vehicle.

•Start taking allergy medicine before pollen season begins. Most allergy medicine works best when taken this way. Make sure you have your relief/rescue inhaler with you. 

•Wear a hat and sunglasses. This will keep pollen out of your eyes and hair.

•Change and wash clothes worn during outdoor activities.

The Minnesota Department of Health Asthma, Climate & Health and MN Tracking programs worked together to publish data about pollen seasons using pollen data collected in Minneapolis by the Clinical Research Institute.

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