Allergy and pollen, more acute symptoms without masks –

from Cristina Marrone

For two years we were protected from allergens and this year’s record exposure due to low rainfall makes it harder to cope with coughs, colds and a runny nose

What is an allergy?

The allergy (to pollen, but also to other substances) occurs as a result of a abnormal reaction of the immune system
which begins to produce antibodies to defend against substances that are actually harmless to the body, triggering the typical allergic reactions. In fact, when the body comes into contact with a substance that it recognizes as dangerous, themeeting between allergens and antibodies causes the immune reactionwhich consists in the release of chemical mediators, such ashistamineat the base of every allergic symptom that can range from a slight irritation to anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can endanger the life of the individual.

Is it true that allergy sufferers are suffering more this year?

“It is true that allergic people are having more problems than in the past,” confirms the doctor Mona Rita Yacoub, coordinator of the Allergy Area at the Immunology, Rheumatology, Allergology and Rare Diseases Unit of the San Raffaele hospital in Milan. «It is also true – she adds – that for the past two years we have been wearing masks and this certainly interfered with the exposure to pollen: we remained protected. Now we no longer wear masks outdoors and patients, no longer used to it, are highly symptomatic. We see that many complain of being worse than the pre-Covid period, as if the two years of non-exposure have contributed to making the symptoms worse. Also this year we have to deal with one dry seasonit rained little: the scarce rains for long periods did not contribute to lowering the pollen concentration, at least temporarily. With the rain, those who are allergic to grasses are generally better off, while those who are allergic to molds are worse off ».

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What are the symptoms of pollen allergy?
The most typical symptoms are red and heavy eyes, conjunctivitis, swollen eyelids, watery eyes, nasal congestion, burst sneezing, persistent cough, itchy nose, eyes and mouth.

How many people suffer from pollen allergy?

It is estimated that one in five adults and one in four under 30 suffer from a more or less severe pollen allergy. The most common allergic form is allergic rhinitis caused by grass (10-15% of the population suffers from it). The trend over the years is increasing even if the change is observable after several years.

What are the most common blooms in Italy in this period?

Le g
raminaceeone of the most common allergic forms, are in full bloom and the concentration of allergens in the air is now very high. The more you move in altitude, the more the flowering delays. Also present are thealternaria and the cladosporium two molds that peak immediately after the rains. It is often believed that the small white fluff that flutters around during this time is the cause of allergies, but in reality it is a coincidence. The white wads, the pappi, are released from the poplars at the same time that the grasses bloom. Porridges are made of cellulose, a hypoallergenic substance, however they can accentuate the ailments of people with allergies because pollen from other plants, including grasses, can adhere to their surface.

How much does climate change affect?

I climatic changes have altered the cycles of the seasons and this has consequences on the incidence of allergies. Rising temperatures have changed the life cycle of plants and they have occurred changes in the concentration and distribution of allergens. In practice lduring the pollen season it is always earlier and lasts longer . According to a study published in Nature Communications, the increase in temperatures and CO2 will push plants to produce more pollen and for a longer period of time. Based on a predictive model, scientists have estimated that by the end of the century, increases in temperature will anticipate the onset of spring pollen emissions by 10-40 days, while the summer-autumn seasons should end 5-15 days late. compared to what is happening now. THEn total, on average, the pollen season could last at least 19 days longer on average. Not only that, due to the increase in temperatures and CO2 levels, the amount of pollen emitted each year could double, intensifying and extending the discomfort of allergy sufferers. Another study on the flowering season of the parietaria (grass widespread throughout Italy) which lasted 23 years has shown that over time the pollination season has lengthened by three months.

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And the pollution?

«L’pollutiondiesel particulate matter, – underlines the San Raffaele allergist – can convey allergens in the air and pollen can go deeper into the lungs. There is no doubt that the pollution of the city makes the pollen action more virulent. We see that in the days when there is greater pollution there are more hospitalizations for asthma exacerbation precisely because allergens in general, and therefore also pollens, can reach the respiratory system more easily. Even mold allergy can have important respiratory consequences, which is sometimes associated with severe asthma attacks “

Pollen allergy is distinguishable
dal Covid?

With the new coronavirus variants a typical symptom of allergy, the a runny nose, it has also become a classic Covid signal. “However, these pictures are quite easy to discern – Dr. Mona-Rita Yacoub reassures – because the Covid cold is often accompanied by low-grade fever (absent in allergy sufferers), there is less often conjunctivitis and a sore throat is frequently present”. In addition, in allergic rhinitis, sneezing is generally a blank (burst). “With the Omicron variant – warns the allergist – we see asthma patients more often who experience an asthma flare, as can happen with other viruses, so we recommend asthmatic patients to treat their disease well to prevent Omicron from decompensating the their asthma “.

How to mitigate the inconveniences?

However, some of the golden rules for limiting symptoms due to allergies contrast with the advice to mitigate the risk of contagion from Covid. In the office, to avoid the entry of pollen it should keep the windows closed during the working day, preferring to ventilate the room upon arrival. It is also recommendable do not voluntarily come into contact with flowers or plants to which you are known to be allergicthe. Also at home it is recommended to carry out the air exchange early in the morning or late in the evening, when the concentration of pollen in the air is lower and also in this case it is good to keep the windows closed during the central hours of the day. It is better to avoid going to places with a high concentration of pollen such as parks and gardens and prefer trips to the sea or in the mountains rather than in the countryside. it is good to avoid staying outdoors in the first moments of a storm, as the rain, as soon as it stops falling, creates a sort of nebulization and facilitates the release of allergens and pollen. To relieve the symptoms of respiratory allergies, when you have an allergy diagnosis, you can use over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines and antiallergics. The allergist will be able to prescribe a more targeted therapy where the symptoms are persistent.

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May 18, 2022 (change May 19, 2022 | 07:42)