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Man surrounded by air pollution sneezes

Understanding Air Pollution Allergies

If you have seasonal allergies, you probably know how unpleasant and distracting they can be. Sneezing, itching, wheezing, and watering eyes can disrupt your day and leave you seeking relief. Although there are treatments and medications that can soothe your allergy symptoms, allergies can sometimes feel inevitable. But it wasn’t always this way. The prevalence of allergies has increased in recent decades in the industrialized world.1 Although many factors affect allergies, exposure to environmental pollutants may partially account for this increase, making air pollution a growing public health problem.1 Recent studies have shown that people with allergies who live in areas with high levels of air pollution report more severe symptoms.2 Higher exposure to pollutants like particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide have been associated with increased severity of allergies.2

How Poor Air Quality Makes Your Allergies Worse

In general, air pollution and poor air quality can make your allergies and respiratory issues worse. Being exposed to poor air quality, like outside air in areas affected by wildfire smoke, can worsen allergy symptoms. People with allergies and asthma often have inflamed airways that make them more sensitive to irritants like smoke.3

To understand how air pollution affects allergies, it’s important to know what air pollution is. Smog and soot are the two most common types of air pollution, coming from similar sources like car and truck emissions, factories, power plants, and incinerators.4 Smog and soot don’t directly cause allergies, but they irritate the eyes and throat and worsen allergy symptoms. These pollutants can even trigger asthma attacks.4

Air pollution also works in more direct ways to make your allergies more severe. Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance that your body has identified as harmful, even though it isn’t.5 Airborne allergens such as pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and mold can trigger allergies. While you might not immediately think of pollen as air pollution, pollen allergies have gotten worse as a result of pollution and climate change.3 Pollen-producing plants like ragweed grow larger and produce more pollen when grown in more carbon dioxide.4 Increased temperatures also extend the pollen production season, making pollen allergies last longer during the year.4

How You Can Improve Your Air Quality

Although air pollution may sound concerning if you suffer from allergies, there are many ways you can improve air quality for yourself and others. If you have allergies, try these ways of making your air quality better:6

 

  • Keep your house clean. Good indoor hygiene can cut down on dust, animal dander, and mold which are all common airborne allergens. Vacuum once or twice a week and regularly clean bedding, drapes, and other materials that attract allergens. Cleaning and dusting your clutter can also help. If you have pets, this is an extra important step to improving your allergies.
  • Save plants for outside. Although plants can improve air quality by releasing oxygen, they also collect and foster mold that can trigger allergies for some people. Keep your plants outside or learn which indoor plants are best for allergies.
  • Change your filters. Regularly changing your air filters can help ensure you don’t recirculate dust and other airborne allergens around your house. Consider having your ducts cleaned to remove trapped dust.
  • Invest in an air purifier. Air purifiers can help capture some of the allergens that may be triggering your allergies. While they won’t remove allergens completely, they can improve air quality and reduce the severity of your symptoms. Place one in the most used area of the house for more significant effects.
  • Embrace fresh air. One way to decrease the amount of indoor air pollutants in your home is to increase the amount of outside air that comes in your home.7 Opening windows and doors and running indoor fans can improve the ventilation in your home.
  • Carpool or bike. Although swapping your regular driving commute for a bike or shared ride might not immediately improve your allergies, it can improve overall air quality in your area.

Improving the air quality around you is a good step in preventing allergies, but sometimes allergens are unavoidable. Allergy medications like over-the-counter nasal spray can help soothe uncomfortable allergy symptoms. Flonase nasal spray is a long-lasting* and effective treatment for allergy symptoms.

*with 24-hour dosing

Sources:

  1. Air pollution and allergens. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18225705/. Accessed 7/09/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  2. Long-term air pollution exposure. https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(19)31636-7/fulltext. Accessed 7/09/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  3. How Does Wildfire Smoke Affect Your Health? https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/smoke-from-wildfires.html. Accessed 7/09/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  4. Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know. Accessed 7/09/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  5. Allergies. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/symptoms-causes/syc-20351497. Accessed 7/09/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  6. Easy ways you can improve indoor air quality. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/easy-ways-you-can-improve-indoor-air-quality. Accessed 7/09/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  7. Improving Indoor Air Quality. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/improving-indoor-air-quality. Accessed 7/09/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.