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Health briefs: Climate change and ragweed season; Recovery Month highlights need for community services

MDH: Climate change prolonging ragweed season

With the ragweed pollen season expected to peak in early-September, now is a good time for allergy sufferers to learn about steps they can take to keep allergies and asthma under control, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Due to the 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, 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.

Recovery Month highlights need for community services

September is National Recovery Month and Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed September 2018 Recovery Month in Minnesota, highlighting the fact that that people can and do recover from substance use disorders and mental illness.

People were admitted to chemical dependency treatment programs in Minnesota more than 57,000 times in 2017. Most people who enter chemical dependency treatment usually complete it and show considerable improvement, and abstinence from substance use and other benefits of treatment tend to continue over the long term. Yet each year more than nine out of 10 adults with a substance use disorder do not receive treatment.

To address this gap, the state has launched a multi-year reform effort that aims to cut the time between asking for treatment and getting it, as well as adding a variety of key improvements to the system. In addition, to help combat our state's ongoing opioid epidemic, the Department of Human Services has won federal grants to fund a range of prevention, treatment and recovery efforts, including peer recovery programs, the Parent Child Assistance Program and community health worker training to support high risk pregnant and newly-parenting women.

"It is important that people experiencing substance use disorders and mental illness receive the support they need from their friends, families and their community," Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said. "And at the same time, it is critical that we as a state make smart investments in effective community services."

Now in its 28th year, the 2018 National Recovery Month theme is, "Join the Voices for Recovery: Invest in Health, Home, Purpose, and Community." The theme explores how investing in community-based services, along with support from families and communities, can contribute to recovery for persons with mental and substance use disorders.

Recovery Month includes a variety of ceremonies, activities and celebrations across the state. For information on events, visit