Category Archives: General climate info

Urban areas promote food as well as respiratory allergies

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

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!

Online allergy map of U.S. by location for travelers

As an allergy nurse, I used an allergy map to show patients which seasonal allergens are prevalent in various regions in the U.S. I found similar map online that I thought you’d enjoy.

The site has good seasonal climate information which concludes with a smart reminder that “if you spend your summers in the north and travel south for the winter, you may experience symptoms throughout the year if you’re allergic to the allergens found in each place.”

View this climate map at Allergies by Geographical Location. We do not have any relationship, affiliation, or advertising arrangement with Clarinex.

Allergies in August – blend of summer and fall

August brings with it the beginning of fall allergy season. Summer grass and tree pollen blend with the start of Ragweed season around mid August, providing a double dose of allergy symptoms for many.

Melon season is in it’s prime as August approaches. Eating cantaloupe and watermelon can trigger reactions in those allergic to Ragweed. Other foods that have been reported to be cross-reactive with Ragweed include honeydew, chamomile, honey, banana, sunflower seeds, zucchini squash, and cucumber. Add to these potato, melon, tomato, watermelon, orange, cherry, peanut, and kiwi, all of which are cross-reactive with lingering summer grasses, and you have a recipe for August Allergy Mix.

Mold counts rise with humidity of summer as well as the rotting foliage of fall. Seasonal changes usually bring showers, and mold spores propagate readily in the moist atmosphere.

Various trees pollinate at different times year round. In southern states, the Fall Elm, or Cedar Elm, begins dusting the air with pollen in August. This tree is also dubbed Texas Elm because it is so dominant in Texas during the fall allergy season. I am vacationing in Ft. Worth, TX, today, and a local group, Allergy Testing and Treatment Center, reports the following pollen counts:

Fungus [Mold] high at 2046 grains per cubic meter
Ragweed moderate at 46 grains per cubic meter
Elm high at 232 grains per cubic meter

Ragweed is common almost world-wide, but many in other parts of the world are experiencing different allergens in August than those we discussed here. Feel free to share the predominant August allergens in your area in the comments.

Sizzling hot summer: How does it affect your allergies?

On July 7, record-breaking, triple-digit temperatures flourished across the Northeastern states. According to The Vancouver Sun, British Columbia experienced record-high, sizzling heat as well.

The heat wave started in the spring, with reports such as the Richmond-Times Dispatch in its April 8 post that “High temperatures trigger high pollen counts.”

Here in the South-central area, triple-digit heat is not uncommon, though in many areas we seem to be experiencing more of a rainy season than usual this year. Higher temps are much harder to tolerate here, with the high humidity of this area, than a similar temperature in a more dry area such as the Southwestern states.

How does temperature affect allergies in your area? Share your comment in ‘Leave a Reply’ below.

The season of fireworks: How does July 4 celebration affect your allergies?

Across the United States, people remember Independence Day on July 4. Fireworks displays begin to dot our land as soon as darkness lends its backdrop. How does the smoke from these displays affect people with allergies?

According to WebMD, “When a person with asthma or COPD inhales smoke and fumes from any of these products of combustion, their airways will become more inflamed for at least 24 hours after the exposure is over.”

The source of smoke responsible for the allergic response is not limited to July 4 or New Years celebrations. It can be any type of smoke, such as automobile exhaust, a brush fire, or cigarette smokers in your home. Smoke is not an allergen, though. Smoke is an irritant, but the irritation it causes can trigger an allergic response in people with asthma. Smoke can also trigger eye and nasal allergic reactions.

Smoke is not the only culprit. Often these fireworks extravaganzas include a trek through a grassy area, or even watching the entire show from a lawn chair on a grassy hillside. Those with allergy to grass will do best to celebrate away from grassy areas. Stinging insects may inhabit grassy areas as well, and people allergic to their venom should be wary. Mosquito saliva causes severe localized allergic responses and a reaction called “Skeeter’s syndrome” in some people. Mosquitoes also carry infection.

Those with food allergies should be especially careful, since it may not be apparent what foods are in the dish that smells so tempting. Remember, smoke from the grill or hidden spices in the barbecue can trigger allergies too!

Does climate make a difference in the summer fireworks season for you? For example, is the allergic response to smoke less severe in windy or calm climates? Or does it just depend on which way the wind is blowing? Are stinging insects and mosquitoes more prevalent in humid climates? What triggers are you more likely to find in areas where the air is dry? What else factors into the equation of allergy and fireworks for you, as it relates to climate and season?

Share your experiences and responses in the comments.

References

Smoke gets in my eyes and lungs, WebMD
Smoking and Asthma, WebMD

Top ten BEST places for allergies (and worst)

In 1996 and 1997, we posted info about the ten worst US cities for asthma sufferers as released by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Often people ask “Where are the best places?” Sperling’s Best Places, in conjunction with Schering-Plough Corporation, has released it’s study of the ten best and worst places to live with allergies. Thanks to Lewis who provided the link and shared more comments about this here at Allergy Climates.

Topping the list of best places, according to the Sperling study, is Grand Rapids, MI. Louisville, KY, ranks worst. The AAFA study, which ranks Asthma (as opposed to the Sperling study which ranks Allergies) lists Atlanta, GA, as the worst US city to live in.

Sterling also seems to support what we’ve often pointed out here at Allergy Climates, that there is no safe-haven for allergy sufferers. Schering-Plough writes:
“A key finding of this study is that there is no geographic center for allergies…no part of the country is immune to their effects.”

The Sterling study is based on mean pollen and mold spore levels for the years 2002, 2001, 2000, and 1999, while the AAFA does the studies annually. The AAFA study also takes into consideration air pollution. Air pollution and smog, especially ozone, are now believed to play an important role as triggers for asthma and allergy.