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Eczema better in in southeast asia and MD, worse in NYC subway

Broad Channel Subway Station

Broad Channel Station, IND Rockaway Line of the NYC Subway

I grew up in south east asia and had eczema off and on but during college it mostly disappeared. I moved to Maryland after college and my eczema was still non existent. After about 4 years, I moved to NYC and after three months my eczema came back with a vengeance. It resurfaces every fall and winter and subsides a little during summer.

I have had two vacations where I went to the beach (Costa Rica and Thailand) and my eczema disappeared during both times.

I am now thinking of relocating either to CA or Hawaii if I’m lucky!

It seems like the worst place for my allergies has been the NYC subways. I’m not sure if its the mold or some other substance. – Submitted by Iana in NYC

Photo courtesy Rayv145, Wikipedia Commons

Urban areas promote food as well as respiratory allergies

Reading, PA

Urban area: Reading, PA, courtesy Nicholas_T on Flickr. Click photo for usage rights.

We’ve known for a long time that air pollution and smog of urban areas can trigger respiratory allergies. A new study shows that children in urban areas have higher incidence of food allergies as well.

The Chicago Tribune reported the study today:

The study, which followed almost 38,500 children under age 18, will be published in the July issue of Clinical Pediatrics. The researchers surveyed a representative sample of U.S. households with children about food allergies and mapped them based on their ZIP codes in every state.

According to the report, “Peanut allergies are twice as common in urban centers as rural communities.” Shellfish allergies were also more prevalent in urban areas studied.

A lead author of the study, assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Dr. Ruchi Gupta, said, “What we’ve found for the first time is that population density and environment have an impact.” But what is triggering all of this? According to Dr. Gupta, one possibility is that all the hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial products we Americans use are causing our bodies to fight things they shouldn’t. But Dr. Gupta says that is just a theory at this point.

Rural climates tend to have more foliage for those with seasonal allergies, and urban allergies have more pollution triggers. Add new findings of increased food allergy of urban areas and we can also define allergy climates by rural or urban. Which is best for you, as with all climate choices, will depend on your particular set of allergies and your ability to manage environmental factors that trigger them. The problem now is that we don’t yet know the environmental triggers of these alarming new urban food allergy findings.

Some pollens-even from the same plant species-respond more agressivelyy

Silver Birch (Betula pendula) male catkins, Finland.

Birch (Betula pendula) male catkins, Finland. Courtesy Miika Silfverberg. Click for info.

The European Hialine study revealed that not only are people allergic to different pollens, but some pollens, even from the same plant species, respond more agressively. The pollens of a particular species not only produce different allergens, but different numbers of proteins with potential to cause allergic reactions. This is all based on their level of maturation, as well as the time of year and the region, according to the Hialine study press release published at Technische Universität München (TUM), and reported in Science Daily May 21, 2012.

Thirteen research institutes from eleven European countries participated in the three-year Hialine study coordinated by Professor Dr Jeroen Buters of TUM’s Chair of Molecular Allergology and the Center of Allergy & Environment (ZAUM). The mission was to study the three main causes of hay fever in Europe, pollen of birch trees, grass, and olive plants.

Researchers found that, “the grass pollens in France were significantly more aggressive than those in Portugal.” While Birch pollens varied less, for olive pollen “…geographical distance seems to have played only a minor role: At two olive measuring stations located only 400 kilometers apart, the scientists observed that the allergen level was four times greater at one of the locations.”

See the full press release at:
Technische Universität München
Science Daily
Read more about the Hyaline study and group here:
HIALINE – Health Impacts of Airborne Allergen Information Network

Sacramento allergies milder than last year, expected to intensify

Not everyone is experiencing the brutal allergy season many have had this year… yet! On Friday, April 27, Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, CA, reported that “this season isn’t nearly as bad as last year.” The report quotes Dr. Bradley Chipps of Capital Allergy and Respiratory Disease Center as saying, “Usually by third or fourth week of April it’s absolutely standing room only in the office, and that’s just not the case this year.”

However, as the title of the item suggests (see below), this report indicates that Sacramento’s slow start has just ramped up. So if you were thinking about heading for Sacramento to find relief, right now may not be the best time!

Last week, just when you were hoping allergy season was about over wherever you live, ABCNews reported that the peak of this allergy season is still around the corner for much of the U.S.

The ABCNews report (linked below) says, “As tree pollen season comes to a close in early May, experts say grass pollen season, which usually begins in late April, is just getting started.”

The Sacramento news echos this with just a slightly later timeline for that area. Capital Radio News reports, “Then there’s another wave when grass pollens bloom, usually peaking in the second or third week of May,” and that, “peak allergy conditions usually persist until around June.” It also warns that, “Central Valley and Los Angeles can also trap pollen and other particulate matter in the air.”

So peep around the corner wherever you live, and brace yourself!

References:

Capital Public Radio: After slow start, allergy season ramps up across state

ABCNews: Are we there yet? Peak of spring allergy season around the corner

Fourth warmest winter 2011-2012: Where does your community rank?

Many attribute our early and intense spring allergy season to our 2011-2012 warm winter. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced that winter 2011-2012 was the fourth warmest winter on record. The seasonal average temperature was 3.9 degrees above the 20th century average. Where does your community rank? See the map below:

US winter 2011-2012 temp

Click image to enlarge then click your browser's back button to return to this page.

This map shows places where the average seasonal temperatures were up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler (darkest blue) or 10 degrees warmer (darkest red) than average, based on observations from 1981-2010.

The most unusually warm temperatures were found in the northern states, especially in the northern Great Plains. In a recent Winter Recap video, Deke Arndt, head of the Climate Monitoring Branch at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, explained the reason for the pattern: the jet stream stayed farther north than usual this winter. The whipping, high-altitude winds of the jet stream generally mark the boundary between Arctic air to the north and warmer air to the south.

Adapted from National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Services

Yellow pollen powder leaves behind tendrils and cones

Puppy covered in oak pollen tendrils

Photo courtesy Dianna Harvey Williams. Used by permission

Earlier this month I opened my front door and thought, Oh no! It’s here again! My porch and car were covered with yellow powder. A misty rain had turned it into wet paste on my windshield, and the wipers only smeared it.

So what is that yellow stuff? Oak and pine bloom around the same time, and both generously distribute their yellow pollen. If pine is prominent where you are, there’s a good chance the culprit is pine. But if oak trees dot your landscape, it’s probably the oaks sneezing out their pollen.

If it makes your sinuses drain and your eyes tear, I’d venture to guess the oaks or other plants that pollinate simultaneously with pine are to blame. Pine allergy is uncommon because its pollen is heavy, causing it to fall to the ground rapidly. However, some species of pine do have pollen grains that are lighter and linger in the air longer, so pine can’t be ruled out completely. Oak pollen is a fine powder that floats much longer, mixing with the air we breathe. During my years as an allergy nurse, I tested many people for allergies. Though we have lots of pine trees here, we almost never saw a patient who tested positive to pine pollen in our Arkansas/Oklahoma border area.

Dr. Stephen Klemawesch, owner and founder of Allergy Associates in St. Petersburg, FL, summarized it well in his February 12, 2012 post. Click the link to read his summary. It’s only two sentences, and very nicely done.

Molly, after playing in the yard

My friend Dianna Harvey Williams snapped these photos of her puppy Molly. Used by permission.

For much of the U.S., the pines and oaks have released their pollen now and it’s gone with the wind, leaving behind only cones and tendrils to scatter our yards. I can relate to these cute photographs my friend Dianna took of her puppy Molly after a romp in the yard. Last week I took the trash out on a windy day, and when I came back in I noticed in the mirror that I had a couple of oak tendrils on top of my head. I tossed them outside and about 30 minutes later I was subconsciously scratching the spot where they landed on my hair. I finally figured out that pieces of the tendrils, and maybe the last remnants of pollen still clinging, had made their way through my hair and onto my scalp. Molly, I understand!

Duration of current pollen season

I am interested in finding out what are the projected duration of the current pollen season and it’s expected intensity. Since the warmer than normal winter and spring so far has caused an early launch of the pollen this year, does it then follow that the season will be of normal duration (ie will end earlier due to the earlier start) or is it expected be longer? All these types of questions that would be posed by the typical allergy/asthma sufferer are of interest to me – submitted by George, Bel Air, Maryland

Allergy Season

Courtesy neoporpupine, Flickr

[Response from Lois (AllergyNurse)]: Excellent question and perfect timing, George! I have been monitoring this all year. By mid-February, many were already lamenting the early allergy season and, unfortunately, most agree this also means a longer and more intense dusting of pollen is in store for us this year as well.

For example, in this February 14th NBC Nightly News report, Dr. Stanley Fineman of Alanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic says the high pollen counts that were not seen last year until around the 20th of February were notable the day after Groundhog day (February 2) this year. In the same report, a spokesperson from Georgia’s Callaway Gardens noted that azaleas were blooming about a month early this year.

In this February 16th WPRI Eyewitness News report from in Providence, RI, Warwick allergist Dr. David Katzen warned, “…with tree pollen starting earlier, pollen should also be in the air longer. That means…people who have never had allergies before could experience symptoms for the first time.”

A week later, we noted these headlines on the February 24th, NBC4 Columbus, Ohio, newscast: Early and Long Allergy Season Ahead.

On February 24th, ABC News4 in Charleston, SC, ended it’s report with this warning: “Experts say just because the pollen season started early doesn’t mean that it will end early.”

Fast forward to this April 8, Toledo Blade report (Toledo, Ohio), where Dr. M. Razi Rafeeq, president of the Toledo Allergy Society with offices in Maumee and Oregon, is quoted as saying, “This year, patients started coming into Toledo area allergists’ offices for shots and other treatments about a month earlier than normal.” Dr. Rafeeq also echos a similar report to others we have seen, that “he has patients in their 50s and 60s who had seasonal allergy problems years ago, got better, but are having problems again because the season is more intense.

Just two days ago, April 9, WREG News3 in Memphis, TN, headlined their report like this: Allergy Season Longer, Stronger. This story reports that Dr. Barry Politi of Horn Lake’s Family and Urgent Care Clinic “says the severely allergic can expect to have problems off and on perhaps all summer.”

I plan to share more about this in an upcoming post.

Valley Fever in Arizona, California, Texas, Mexico, Central and South America

Geographic_Distribution_of_Coccidioidomycosis_02

Valley Fever distribution-see green areas on map|Wikipedia

Called “The Devil in the Dust” in the April, 2012, issue of St. Joseph’s Magazine, Valley Fever is caused by the coccidioides fungi species that grows in the soil of Arizona and other dry desert areas of the southwestern United States, including central California, southern Utah, Nevada, and Western Texas around El Paso. Valley Fever also occurs in the Pacific costal region of Mexico and Central and South America.

Allergy Climates first brought you an item submitted by one of our readers about Arizona Valley Fever in our June 6, 2007, post. Recently, when a reader commented about Valley Fever here at Allergy Climates, I was reminded that we are long overdue for an update. Progress has been made in research of the disease in the past five years, yet it continues to spread in the affected areas when soil carrying Valley Fever spores, also called arthroconidia, are dispersed into the air by farming, construction, and wind storms, then breathed into the lungs.

Valley Fever spores

Valley Fever (arthroconidia) spores|courtesy Wikipedia

Symptoms may be so slight the infection is only discovered by a later positive skin or blood test, or nodules on the lungs, according to a Mayo Clinic article which reads, “Although the nodules typically don’t cause problems, they can look like tumors on X-ray.” According to this article, symptoms resemble those of the flu, sometimes accompanied by a rash, and can become chronic with low-grade fever, weight loss, cough, chest pain, and, as previously mentined, lung nodules. In its most serious form, the infection disseminates (spreads) to the skin (nodules and ulcers), bones, joints, and brain. Filipinos, Hispanics, blacks, Native Americans, and Asians, along with pregnant women, diabetics, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop the serious forms of the disease according to the Mayo Clinic article.

The April, 2012, issue of St. Joseph’s Magazine reports that “approximately one third of those exposed to the spore will contract valley fever.” According to this report, the disease kills 35-45 people per year in Arizona alone, and can leave people disabled for life. This issue features the new Valley Fever Center on the campus of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. The new Center is directed by John Galgiani, M.D., who also founded The Valley Fever Center for Excellence in Tucson in 1996. The April issue also includes pictures of recent Arizona dust storms, as well as current information about Arizona’s Valley Fever.

According to the May 1, 2007, issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, the condition which would later be known as Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis) was first discovered by a medical student in Buenos Aires in 1892. The patient was an Argentinian soldier who had been experiencing worsening skin lesions for about three years. Soon afterward, an immigrant from the Azores who was working in agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley developed similar symptoms. He was taken to a hospital in San Francisco where he was found to have Valley Fever. According to a Tutorial for Primary Care Professionals prepared by the Valley Fever Center for Excellence in Tucson, by 1935, this infection was common in the San Joaquin Valley, where it got its namem “Valley Fever.” By the 1940’s Valley Fever, also known as Cocci, Desert Rheumatism, and San Joaquin Fever, was well-known in southern Arizona where it remains a serious threat today.

The California Department of Public Health reports that half of the estimated 150,000 Coccidioides infections that occur each year in the United States do not produce symptoms. The CDPH says that there is currently no vaccine, but efforts to develop a vaccine are ongoing. According to The CDPH, “Those exposed to dust during their jobs or outside activities in these areas should consider respiratory protection, such as a mask, during such activities.”

A Phoenix Business Journal report published October 4, 2011, states “Of the 150,000 new Valley fever infections each year, two-thirds affect Arizonans — the majority of them in Maricopa County…. And the numbers are increasing.”

Improved asthma and allergy symptoms in Alaska?

My daughter suffers from severe environmental allergies and also has allergy and virus induced asthma. The heat and humidity here creates significant struggles for her. The deepest part of winter is when she feels the best. That’s why we are considering Alaska to live.

My question is, does anyone have experience with moving to Alaska and had success with improved allergy/asthma symptoms? – Submitted by Shannon in Indiana

Most difficult place to live with allergies in 2012

Knoxville, TN, topped the list as the most difficult place to live with allergies in the Asthma and Allergy Foundation’s Fall Allergy Roundup in 2011, and it has taken the #1 spot for spring allergies in 2012 as well. Knoxville scored second in AAFA’s spring, 2011, list. In second place for Fall allergies this year is McAllen, TX. You can see the complete list for Spring, 2012, on the AAFA website.

AAFA bases its rankings on 3 factors: Pollen scores, number of allergy medications used per patient, and number of allergy specialists per patient.