90% of the pollen that is circulated in the air is due to the different types of trees present in urban areas. Experts from the University of Chile warn about the effects of climate change on allergy patients and offer practical advice.
According to the World Health Organization, it is expected that by 2050, four billion people will suffer from some form of allergy. This is due to the increase in temperature and air pollution that climate change has brought.
The arrival of spring in our country is a fact, a time when this harrowing phenomenon skyrockets. Against this background, researchers and scientists from the University of Chile give their recommendations for countering the effects of this reality from medicine and the environment.
But what are allergies? The Clinical Hospital of the University of Chile defines them as exaggerated responses of the immune system and a genetic component. These are caused by exposure to certain substances in the environment, which are called allergens.
Depending on the causative agent, various symptoms arise, with respiratory and ocular symptoms being the predominant ones. One of the most common is allergic rhinitis, which causes itchy nose, sneezing, runny nose (mucus discharge) and nasal congestion, which can also occur with asthmatic conditions.
According to Maria Antonieta Guzmán, head of the HCUCH Immunology, Allergy and HIV Service and an academic from the Faculty of Medicine, nasal congestion is “the symptom that most affects patients’ quality of life, especially because they do not sleep well. Because they have a stuffy nose, they don’t breathe well and they can’t sleep.”
For environmental chemist and academic at the Department of Chemistry Richard Toro Araya, “an exacerbation of respiratory diseases occurs during the period of change of seasons from winter to spring. The fact that there is more pollen circulating in the environment undoubtedly contributes to this symptomatology.” Extends”.
Oriental banana in the spotlight
Among the effects of climate change on the increase in allergies are primarily increased temperatures, which extend the flowering season, increasing the pollen explosion. In the same line, the reduction in precipitation does not allow cleaning of harmful agents present in the air. Thus, the concentration of pollen from various plants and trees is becoming increasingly higher.
Dr. Richard Toro, along with other researchers, analyzed the trends and limits of pollen concentrations in the air in the city of Santiago. This study established that the level of these allergens in the air tripled, “from a concentration of 11,000 grains of pollen per cubic meter, to more than 30,000 grains of oriental banana pollen,” explained the expert.
With the inevitable increase in temperature, the increase in pollen in the environment is unstable. Being able to try and reduce the effects this causes can be a huge relief to a population that has to deal with allergy symptoms.
“I think we should use endemic species in urban trees, especially those native to Chile. And not just one, we have to try to diversify them, it’s going to make sure that the population is like this. Trees and these are going to be more adapted to coexist with pollen,” Toro argued.
On the other hand, the head of the Immunology, Allergy and HIV Services offered four suggestions to reduce discomfort in pollen patients:
– Ventilate the house in the morning and not in the afternoon, as there is a high amount of pollen at that time.
Travel with vehicle windows closed.
– Use optical lenses or sunglasses to prevent these particles from directly affecting the ocular conjunctiva.
– Shake clothing exposed to open air, as pollen tends to stick.
On these four points, the specialist gives two more to keep in mind: Management of allergies requires medical treatment. “The basic pillars of treatment are, firstly, drugs that one uses to treat symptoms, which are basically antihistamines and inhaled corticosteroids, both nasal and bronchial, and secondly, immunotherapy,” Guzman said.
The latter corresponds to a treatment that lasts between three and five years and inactivates patients allergic to pollen, mites, fungi, among other agents.