Category Archives: Climate news

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

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

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.

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.

Fall Allergy Capitals, Portland better than average 2011

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) released it’s “Fall Allergy Capitals” this month. Topping the list is Knoxville, TN, followed by Dayton, OH, McAllen, TX, Jackson, MS, and Oklahoma City, OK. AAFA does extensive research each year to provide this information on an annual basis.

Each Spring, AAFA also publishes their “Asthma Capitals” list. We did a full writeup of their 2011 Spring Allergy report soon after the report was released.This year, Richmond, VA tops the list. See the AAFA complete report listing the top ten Asthma Capitals linked below.

AAFA says, “There is no place safe from allergies in America, and some cities are more problematic than others.” Our goal here at Allergy Climates is to provide a place where people in the US and around the world can share which areas are least/most problematic for them.

Portland, Oregon ranks #100 on both lists this year for 2011, topping the year for the “better than average” place to live with allergies/asthma. What is your experience with allergy and asthma in Portland?

AAFA Asthma Capitals (Spring)
AAFA Fall Allergy Capitals

Best and worst places for asthma and allergy in 2011 – hats off, Portland!

Asthma report for 2011

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) recently published its “Asthma Capitals” report for 2011. Each year AAFA researches, compiles, analyzes, and compares data from its own surveys as well as numerous U.S Government and other qualified agencies, and provides reports for the challenges allergy and asthma sufferers face in areas across the U.S. AAFA weighs a number of factors in their rankings. For more about AAFA and their work and reports, see references below.

Worst places for asthma and allergy

Richmond, VA, tops the AAFA 2011 list as the most challenging place to live with asthma, followed by Knoxville, TN, in second place, and Memphis, TN, in third. With four Tennessee cities in the top ten list, it seems perhaps Tennessee wins the trophy for most challenging State Asthma Capital in 2011. However, this latter conclusion is merely speculation on my part, and not part of the AAFA report.

For fall allergies, Dayton, OH, took first place (for worst) in AAFA’s “Fall Allergy Capitals,” 2010, followed by Wichita, KS, in second, and Louisville, KY placing third.

Best places for asthma and allergy

I’m often asked about best places for asthma and allergy sufferers. The AAFA compares the 100 largest U.S. cities for their report, with the areas at the bottom of the list being “better than average” areas for those with asthma. This puts the 100th ranked Portland, OR, area in first place for better areas for those with asthma, 99th ranked San Francisco, CA, area in second, and 98th ranked Colorado Springs, CO, area in third for 2011.

In the AAFA “Fall Allergy Capitals,” 2010, Portland, OR, also took the 100th spot, followed by Seattle, WA, in 99th, and San Diego, CA, in 98th. Hats off to Portland!

It’s important to remember that many factors go into determining which area is best for you. Your allergies may be completely different from those of others who report problems or relief in a specific area. Keep in mind also that moving away from one area’s allergens can lead to development of new allergies to prevalent allergens where you move.

Investigate info from AAFA’s “Asthma Capitals,” as well as their fall and spring “Allergy Capitals” reports, including prevalence, risk, and medical factors for cities nearest areas which you are considering for possible relocation. Search others’ experiences here at “Allergy Climates and Seasons,” repeat visits to areas you are interested in during each season of the year, and stay as long as possible with each visit to areas where you might potentially want to live. Before you make the move, talk with people in the area about common allergies, and ask if there other environmental or health-related concerns in that area which you may not have considered.

References

  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
  2. Asthma Capitals.
  3. Allergy Capitals.
  4. We appreciate the extensive research, data gathering, and compilation provided by AAFA. Their efforts to promote quality air enriches life for all of us. We have referenced their reports several times through the years in an effort to provide current information for allergy sufferers.

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.

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.