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Climate change as a pollen turbo –

Climate change as a pollen turbo –

The air temperature at the Earth's surface in January was 13.14 degrees Celsius on average across the globe, 0.7 degrees above the average of the reference period from 1991 to 2020 and 0.12 degrees above the highest January temperature so far in 2020. The joint EU climate will change the Copernicus service on Thursday – more on this in January was the warmest in recorded history (; February 8, 2024).

Hazelnut bushes feel comfortable in relatively warm temperatures and are therefore in full bloom. Hazel pollen levels are already high across eastern Austria at the beginning of February. “The early bloomers are mathematicians. They add up the temperatures of the individual days and once a certain total is reached, they start to bloom,” explains Markus Berger, head of the Austrian Pollen Information Service.

The season starts earlier and earlier

“We saw this especially last year when temperatures were above five degrees for the first four weeks. It was a very early start to the nut bloom,” says Berger, who is also an ear, nose and throat doctor.


Hazelnuts bloom early, in part because winters are so warm, much to the chagrin of those with pollen allergies

Pollen trap evaluations also show that the season is starting earlier and earlier. In 2004, hazelnuts began to bloom only on February 2nd, and in 2023 this is already the case on January 2nd. Strong winds also shake the last bits of pollen from the flowers and stir up the pollen that has sunk to the ground.

Early bloomers and ragweed are widespread

The situation is made worse by air pollution. “One of our research has shown that ozone can increase the symptoms of allergy patients. Other studies show, for example, that carbon dioxide can increase pollen production. Plants react differently to climate change depending on their species, according to the expert.

If temperatures continue to rise, ragweed, which blooms in autumn, is expected to spread more and more throughout Austria and cause increasing complaints. “With early bloomers, you can assume that they will have problems with warm temperatures over time. For example, they will be the first to migrate to higher areas,” says the pollen expert. In any case, he advises sufferers to get an allergy test.



The highly susceptible ragweed threatens to spread further in Austria due to warm temperatures

Early treatments reduce the risks

The earlier treatment is started, the lower the risk of so-called floor change, which turns hay fever into asthma. As a patient, you can also make your life easier through non-medical measures. “There are also pollen screens or air purifiers for the home, for example. They can reduce allergen levels indoors. FFP2 masks help too. “In summer I recommend staying in deciduous forests, which also filter pollen from the air,” says Markus Berger.

Current data on daily pollen levels can be found on the Pollen Information Service home page. The home page displays the current load for each site as well as the development throughout the day. This means you can spend longer periods outdoors at times when pollen is low so that you are not exposed to allergens for an unnecessarily long period.

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