Climate change increases allergies
The incidence of allergies is increasing and global warming is touted as one of the culprits. Luís Delgado, immunoallergologist and professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto, explains in an interview how climate change is affecting our health.
Jornal Vernária (JV) – Do you think climate change has somehow influenced the incidence of allergies?
Luís Delgado (LD) – Yes, I believe so. It is one of the important factors for the increase in allergies since the end of the last century and the beginning of the 21st century. So it is thought because part of the allergies are due to sensitisation. People are allergic to normal things in the environment, that is, the things that usually do not cause problems, such as pollens during spring and dust mites in the house.
JV – Is it possible that the number of allergy sufferers is increasing with the development of climate changes?
LD – Yes. For example, rising temperatures have caused the pollination seasons to be different. Some plants may appear in certain areas where they never appeared before and cause allergies. For instance, in northern Italy, a plant called “ambrosia” appeared causing many allergies. This plant was very problematic in the United States of America, but was rare in Europe.
Location of plants varies with the weather conditions
JV – Can climate change influence the cure for allergies?
LD – There are certain substances causing allergies which exist in a given location and that do not appear elsewhere. This is very typical of plants that only fit one region.
In your area [Vieira do Minho], where the main cause for allergies are the true grasses (Gramineae) that pollinate during this time of year, between May and June. If we go south, there are also true grasses, but there is, for example, olive pollen, which is rare in the north. The location of these plants varies with the weather.
Of course, if a person allergic to grass pollen is moved to Finland, that person’s condition improves, but he/she may display an allergic reaction to birch pollen, which is more common in this country. The influence exerted by the climate has not been considered beneficial, since the heat favours the growth of mites in the house. Warming up the air in your home, will eventually turn against us because it allows people to have a greater exposure to mites.
On the other hand, people spend less time outdoors and more time indoors and consequently are more exposed to such agents.
JV – What can we do to alter the incidence of these allergies?
LD – The increase in allergies is multifactorial, it has to do with changes in the environment and lifestyles. People are advised to lead a healthier life by reducing exposure to tobacco and automobile pollution. It is a well-known fact that people who live in polluted cities have more allergies than those living in the countryside.
The reduction of tobacco inhalation and fuel pollution can lead to a reduction of the risk of allergies. It is also recommended that people have a healthy diet, with less fat and less sugar, which increase the severity of allergic diseases.
JV – Can the overuse of medicines lead to a reduction of their effect upon allergies? Does it hinder the healing process? How?
LD – On the one hand, there are more and more people with allergies to drugs such as anti-inflammatories. On the other, and according to the hygiene hypothesis, the more conditions we possess to prevent infections, the greater the risk of that population to have allergic diseases.
Work by: Filipa Antunes, David Andrade e Mariana Camachos
Agrupamento de Escolas Vieira de Araújo (Inter-School Group), Vieira do Minho
This work was carried out under the Flash Seminar held on the 15th and the 27th of May 2015 at Agrupamento de Escolas Vieira de Araújo (Inter-School Group), in Vieria do Minho. Students developed media content based on interviews with experts in various fields related to climate change and research on the subject.