issues and experts

Sneeze the day — SFU expert available on spring allergies, climate change & COVID-19

March 31, 2021

Spring is back in full bloom—and so are allergies, triggered by surrounding environments and their increasing temperatures.

Simon Fraser University health sciences lecturer Cecilia Sierra-Heredia says although the pollen season fluctuates from year to year, warmer temperatures caused by climate change have altered the surrounding environmental conditions, such as humidity or temperature, that species of trees, grass, weeds and other plant life live and thrive in to reproduce.

As days get warmer sooner, plants flower and release pollen grains into the air earlier, causing the pollen season to start earlier and end later. That means those most affected by these pollen grains suffer from physical symptoms for longer stretches of time.

Consequently, people are inhaling pollen for more days than before. Although not every person is affected by pollen to the same extent, increased amounts of pollen in the air trigger very specific symptoms in people with asthma and or in those who already suffer from allergies.

"While plants are making the most of these warmer environmental conditions during the spring to summer periods and even early fall, the humans who have allergies are constantly inhaling pollen grains and their bodies are treating them as threats,” says Sierra-Heredia.

Seasonal allergies can be managed by avoiding contact with pollen grains as much as possible and with OTC or prescription medications. However, she says using COVID-19 preventive measures such as wearing masks outdoors during high pollen concentration days, can help to decrease the amount of discomfort those suffering from allergies or asthma experience during the pollen season.

Masks can block the inhalation of pollen when used properly, Sierra-Heredia says. “If pollen can’t enter the nose and lungs, our immune system will not launch the allergic reaction that is at the center of seasonal allergies.”

Cecilia Sierra-Heredia is available to speak on allergies, the pollen season and climate change, and preventive measures, including the impact of masks.


CECILIA SIERRA-HEREDIA, lecturer, Faculty of Health Sciences,


MELISSA SHAW, SFU Communications & Marketing
236.880.3297 |


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