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Pollen allergies: pollution worsens symptoms

The beautiful days are coming! And like every year, it is a real nightmare for millions of French people. According to the ANSES (National Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety), one French person in three is affected by allergic rhinitis, double the number 20 years ago. The bad news is that allergy symptoms are aggravated by the fine particles in polluted air.

Spring, the season of allergies

The winter colds are finally gone, and now it's time for spring allergies to return... The runny nose, itchy eyes, itchy throat, incessant sneezing, it may seem like a cold at first, but in reality these are the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever.

Two types of allergic rhinitis

There are two types of rhinitis: those that last all year round (persistent rhinitis) and those that occur only in spring (seasonal rhinitis).
Allergic rhinitis is an allergic inflammation of the nasal cavity due to sensitisation and overreaction to an allergen such as pollen.
With the return of spring, pollen flowers bloom and are released into the air. Allergic rhinitis causes a tingling sensation in the nose and eyes, sneezing, a reduced sense of smell, but also fatigue, coughing fits and asthma in sensitive people.

Allergènes

One of the causes: pollution

Evocation de la chaleur

The causes of allergic rhinitis are mostly genetic. CHowever, allergists confirm that outdoor air pollution (fine particles, diesel emissions) and indoor air pollution (tobacco, CO2, formaldehyde, heavy metals, VOCs, etc.) aggravate and promote the appearance of symptoms.
Like pollen, pollutants emitted outside can enter the home through the ventilation system and by infiltration (windows, doors, chimneys, etc.).

Why does pollution make allergies worse?

Allergist Dr Nhân Pham-Thi from the Institut Pasteur medical centre says that pollution worsens the toxicity of pollen for two reasons.
Firstly, the fine particles present in polluted air make pollen more aggressive. The pollutants attach themselves to the pollen, fweaken the surface of the grains and therefore make them more toxic. Pollution also increases the production of pollens, hey become more numerous, bigger and more allergenic.
In addition, the fine particles breathed in irritate the respiratory and ocular mucous membranes, making the airways more receptive and facilitating the accessibility of pollens in the body. The sensitivity of individuals to pollen is thus increased during pollution peaks. This is why even in cities where there is little greenery, the urban population is sensitive to allergies.

Tips to fight against allergic rhinitis :

  • Monitor pollution and pollen peaks on the National Aerobiological Monitoring Network (RNSA) website
  • Avoid physical exertion and sport
  • Keep the windows closed and ventilate briefly in the morning and late evening
  • Equip yourself with an air purifier effective against pollens
  • Get diagnosed and identify the pollen you are sensitive to
  • Change your clothes and wash your hair more often, pollens cling to fibres and clothes
  • Finally, do not neglect to take antihistamine medication

Carte de pollution

The increase in the frequency of allergies in recent years is consistent with the increase in air pollution. Pollution is not the direct cause of allergic rhinitis, but it aggravates its symptoms and contributes to the increase in the period of the pollen emission seasons.

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