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Mar 30, 2011 Posted Under: Allergies, Canadian Pharmacy

CanadianPharmacyNORX: Air Pollution And Skin Allergies

A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology discovered a link between itchy skin, irritated eyes, and headaches with certain types of pollution.

French researchers studied the air’s nitrogen dioxide, small particulate matter and ozone levels in urban areas surrounding Bordeaux. Bordeaux is an area in France where pollution levels are usually slightly higher than the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The research team collected medical case reports from SOS Medicins, a public health-care network that makes emergency house calls. They concentrated on the number of visits that are related to complaints of respiratory problems including tonsillitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, asthma, bronchitis, or cough, as well as conjunctivitis, skin rash, headaches and asthenia, a conditioned characterized by general feelings of weakness that are usually the result of allergies.

The researchers noted a 1.5 percent and 2.6 percent increase in the number of visits for upper and lower respiratory diseases respectively, a few days after particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide levels rose.

But what is most telling is the increase in doctor visits for other disease. On days when particulate matter was highest, visits for skin rash or conjunctivitis increased by 3.2 percent, while headaches and asthenia rose 3.5 percent.

When ozone levels rose, visits for skin rash or conjunctivitis increased by 3 percent, and 1.7 percent for headaches and asthenia.

Increased levels of nitrogen oxide caused a 2.8 percent increase in visits for headaches and weakness.

We know that air pollution affects the heart and lungs. But, these slight effects of air pollution on human health will likely affect more of us as it worsens.

“Once you start looking at the entire body, we start to realize this is not as benign as we think,” says Neil Kao, MD, an allergist at the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center in Greenville, SC, and a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. “It’s not just bad for your heart-it’s bad for everything.”

Whereas allergy to pollen can trigger obvious reactions like sneezing, the subtle impact of pollution may not be evident immediately. Kao recommends staying indoors during sunny-but-polluted days. “As much as I promote a healthy, happy lifestyle with lots of exercise,” he says, “there are certain days just can’t reset your immune system.”

If polluted air is affecting your health, here are some things you can do to avoid it:

Check the air forecast -stay on top of high-hazard air pollution days.

Stay indoors – staying inside your home helps, but only if the air inside is less polluted than the air outside. Air washers, filters and the like, can help rid the air of particulate matters. However, they are useless against nitrogen oxide, ozone and other harmful gasses. So on days when pollution levels are particularly high, keep you windows shut; and on days when the air is clearer, let your home air out to decrease indoor toxins.

Wear a mask – breathing through masks with an N-95 rating can help cut help lower pollution-related headaches. Wearing protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses when outdoors will keep particulate matter off our skin and out of your eyes.

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