The rates of allergy and asthma have increased significantly in recent decades. Rates have doubled from the period between 1976-1980 to the period spanning from 1988-1994. The revealing data was reported at the 2013 annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. The report also showed that rates of people with both allergy and asthma also jumped sharply in recent decades.

Perhaps what is even more important than the data itself, however, was the investigators' suggestion that the increasing allergy and asthma burden in the United States may be a result of a changing climate.

It has already been shown that pollen counts have been much higher and more potent allergically today than they once were in the past. The pollen season also appears to be growing significantly longer than in the past. In 2011, the heads of the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association even announced that rising temperatures may be contributing to asthma severity by increasing levels of pollution smog.

The current study, which used data from two National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), found that in NHANES II (1976-1980), 2.5% of respondents reported asthma, 9% reported oral or nasal symptoms, and 19% had a skin test reaction. This was compared to NHANES III (1988-1994), when a significantly greater 5% reported asthma, nearly 30% reported oral or nasal symptoms, and close to 42% tested sensitive on skin tests.

However, the new data does not prove that the rising rates are due to climate change, although they do seem to support prior studies showing increasing pollen counts in the air. Jay Portnoy, MD, of Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo, who was not involved in the study, explained:

“They've [previously] been able to show there is more pollen today and the pollen is more potent as an allergen … Climate change does seem to be having an effect … so what they're looking for here is a signal that the change in pollen burden in the air is associated with changes in clinical effects. “

If you are one of the millions affected by allergies or asthma, one of the best strategies you can take is improving your indoor air quality and allergy-proofing your house so you can at least breathe easier in the comfort of your own home. As for climate change, regardless of where you stand on this controversial issue, every one of us can benefit from paying greater attention to our global footprint …