Whether you’re finding yourself indoors or outdoors, air pollution is a reality most of us face daily. And while we all know it’s harmful to the environment and contributes to global warming, it also is essential to take note of how it affects people with allergies.

Outdoor air pollution mostly arises from particulate matter that are byproducts from burning coal and oil. These byproducts include ground-level ozone* (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphate (SO4) and small aerial parts of different sizes, referred to as particulate matter (PM).

Another reason to avoid traffic

In urban areas, emissions from traffic pose a particularly significant risk to allergy sufferers. For example, diesel exhaust particles (DEP) are associated with a higher incidence of asthma and increased severity for existing asthma sufferers. There’s also a higher incidence of allergic rhinitis in areas with heavy traffic.

According to a recent study by Lancet Planetary Health, four million cases of childhood asthma globally could be attributable to nitrogen dioxide from traffic pollution every year.

Proximity from traffic plays a critical role: A 2006 study by the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that children living within 75 meters of a major road had a 50 per cent greater risk of exhibiting asthma symptoms than were children who live more than 300 meters away.

There also are various studies linking the prevalence of asthma to proximity to industrial areas.

Air pollution in your home

Indoor air pollution is just as harmful to people with allergies, particularly asthma-related allergies.

According to Asthma and Allergy Friendly, some of the significant drivers of indoor air pollution include, but are not limited to tobacco smoke, mold, dust mite and cockroach allergens, fumes from burning oil, coal and wood, carbon monoxide (CO) from stoves and fireplaces, pollen and pet dander, and outdoor pollution entering the building.

You can significantly reduce the risk of indoor pollution through proper ventilation, avoiding damp and using products that are asthma and allergy friendly.

Air pollution driving climate change, driving allergies

It’s common knowledge the most significant contributing factor to global warming is carbon dioxide (CO2).

An increase of this pollutant in the atmosphere is driving warmer temperatures, which in turn means we are seeing longer allergy seasons. With higher CO2 levels around us, many plants — which absorb CO2 as part of photosynthesis — are thriving, and, in turn, producing more pollen.

How we can make a difference

Climate change and pollution remain a global health challenge. Reducing, preventing and even eliminating air pollution does not just lie in the hands of policymakers, but in the hands of each one of us.

By reducing our carbon footprint, we can improve everyone’s health and slow down climate change. Small changes, like using public transport and carpooling, dusting off our bicycles and supporting locally produced goods gains new meaning in the light of the direct impact it can have on our health.

Let’s make a positive difference by being more mindful of our impact on the environment!

* Ozone increases the permeability of your airways so that allergens access our airway more easily and makes our airways more reactive.

  • The purpose of this article is to raise awareness of allergies and the treatment options that are available for it. This article should by no means be used, or viewed, as a primary source for medical advice – please arrange for a personal consultation with your medical practitioner before taking any decisions that could affect the wellbeing of you or your loved ones. Read our medical disclaimer for more information.

© 2019 | Dr Marinda McDonald | Practice number 0015393 | All rights reserved

Marinda McDonald

Dr Marinda McDonald has offered specialised treatments for allergies for most of her professional career. Read more about her on the home page of this website (allergydoc.co.za).