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Pollen allergy : A modern-day disease

Pollution, global warming, globalisation and stress: an unfortunate by-product of these and other major phenomena of our times is the increased risk of pollen allergy.

 

The consequences of climate change

Global warming has had a direct effect on the increased levels of pollen allergy observed over recent decades. Indeed, with periods of milder weather starting earlier and ending later, and plants growing at a faster rate, pollen seasons are lasting longer and the amount of pollen in the atmosphere is on the increase.

 
 

Globalisation creates new allergens

Grasses are now found in regions where they were previously unknown, countries import non-native trees for ornamental planting, exotic plant species are becoming commonplace, trade continues to increase and travel is more accessible than ever before. The consequence of all this global movement is that today we are exposed to a range of new allergens, substances which may trigger or increase the risk of allergy.

 
 

Air pollution, an aggravating factor

Air Pollution and Allergies

Air pollution, especially pollution caused by traffic or industrial activity, increases the risk of developing an allergy. It weakens the nasal mucosa and makes the respiratory tract more likely to react to allergens. It also increases the allergenic potential of allergens in the air: pollution particles “stick” to pollen grains modifying their surface structure, which makes them more allergenic and more likely to cause inflammation in the airways1 2.

 
 

Stress, another mind and body “pollutant”

Stress has a harmful effect on the immune system and the body’s ability to protect against inflammation, and recent studies have shown that this is associated with an increased risk of allergic rhinitis and asthma.

 


[1] Mösges R, Klimek L, Today’s allergic rhinitis patients are different: new factors that may play a role. Allergy 2007: 62: 969-975
[2] D’Amato, G., Cecchi, L., Bonini, S., Nunes, C., Annesi-Maesano, I., Behrendt, H., Liccardi, G., Popov, T. and Van Cauwenberge, P. (2007), Allergenic pollen and pollen allergy in Europe. Allergy, 62: 976–990