Allergies boosted by global warming and pollution

Mugwort ambrosia in flower, in France.

Watery eyes, runny nose, untimely sneezing: for many French people, spring and summer rhyme with allergic rhinitis, the most common and constant manifestation of respiratory allergy. The guilty ? In the majority of cases, it is pollen circulating in the air, followed by dust mites and animal hair. Although epidemiological studies have been lacking for several years to characterize the weight of pollen in these allergies, scientists agree since the 1990s on the fact that 25% to 30% of the population (both in Europe and in France) suffer from these rhinitis every year. Figures confirmed in 2022 by a study conducted on the French Constances cohort (28%). An upward trend is observed all over the world.

This year, in France, a particularly high peak was observed in mid-June, accompanied by an increase in visits to the emergency room for rhinitis, but also for asthma, and even for “storm asthma”caused by the whirlwinds of air and the humidity that precede the storms of early summer by several tens of minutes, and which violently push the pollen towards the ground, dispersing the microparticles of their allergens.

If asthma is not exclusively caused by respiratory allergies, “we observe a significant link between the fact of being exposed to pollen and the use of care for an asthma attack”underlines Isabella Annesi-Maesano, director of research at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) and co-author of a study on the subject published at the beginning of the year.

“This year there has been more pollen exposure than usualnotes Alain Didier, allergist pulmonologist at Larrey hospital in Toulouse. We have seen a lot of visits to the emergency room for an asthma attack, including people who did not know they had asthma. » Asthma is the number one chronic disease in children, and kills nearly 1,000 people a year in France. While rhinitis is considered mild in most cases, it can be very severe and affect quality of life. Above all, prolonged exposure from year to year can make such as antihistamines freely available in pharmacies little by little less effective, or even cause cross-allergy to certain fruits or vegetables in the long run. Moreover, repeated allergic rhinitis can be a trigger for asthma.

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