“By the middle of this century, more than 50% of the population will be allergic and there is no improvement in the future scenario.” And the Italians Currently, there are 100 million European citizens who suffer from allergic rhinitis and 70 million from asthma. “Two diseases often associated, so much so that we can say that over 90% of asthmatics also have rhinitis and half of the people who have rhinitis have asthma of varying severity”. Thus Lorenzo Cecchi, president of the Association of territorial and hospital allergists and immunologists (Aaiito) in his speech at the event ‘Respiratory allergies and climate: what is changing and what to know’, a meeting promoted today by Assosalute, the national association of self-medication drugs, part of Federchimica .
Since respiratory allergies are caused by allergens that come into contact with the body through the air we breathe, the correlation between air pollution/smog – it emerged from the meeting – and an increase in allergic pathologies is immediate. “This – continues the expert – is due to the harmful synergy between pollutants, pollen and allergens. The pollutants, on the one hand, damage the mucous membrane and facilitate greater penetration of pollen and, on the other hand, increase their allergenicity”. Added to this are the effects of climate change, in particular the increase in temperature, which affects, anticipating the flowering seasons of plants, such as birch and cypress, and prolonging, for example, that of grasses and parietaria.
“Pollution – he remarks – contributes to the damage of the so-called ‘epithelial barrier’, a wall made of bricks where the immune system is located underneath, as if it were a shield that filters what arrives from the outside, limiting the number of substances that come into contact with the immune system. The substances that man has introduced into the environment in the last 60-70 years, around 350 thousand, cause the disconnection of these bricks and the consequent penetration of allergens, pollutants, irritants and microorganisms, including bacteria. Some of the latter live above the epithelial barrier and contribute to balance with the immune system. Damage to the epithelial barrier causes and fuels inflammation, which is the source of allergic diseases but also of other chronic diseases”.
To avoid this “disconnection” of the wall and these excessive infiltrations, “it is necessary – Cecchi reiterates – to commit to reducing the substances that generate outdoor and indoor pollution”. Although the genetic predisposition to respiratory allergies is indisputable, “one can also become allergic due to the surrounding environment. To corroborate this thesis, “the so-called hygienic hypothesis, according to which people in contact with pathogens are less likely to be allergic, as widely studied in children who are born in rural contexts compared to their peers who live in cities. In practice, in the rural environment the balance between environmental bacteria and our immune system is better maintained, a balance that has been achieved over millions of years of coexistence. This explains why there are more allergic diseases in the western world than in other less developed countries”
The most exposed to respiratory allergies are children. “More than 1 in 3 children presents at least one episode of acute shortness of breath before the age of 3 – recalls Cecchi – and, often, in the form of wheezing or wheezing: this is because they are exposed to environmental stimuli which represent risk factors for the onset of allergic diseases in the developmental stage of their immune system”.
Fundamental, even for adults, is prevention through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle, “rich in antioxidants, and through information, staying up-to-date on forecasting systems and environmental monitoring systems, both for pollen and pollutants, on official websites”. For those who practice sports “even if the treatments now allow you to carry out any type of physical activity, there are some types of sports that require more attention, such as cycling, which exposes the sportsman to high concentrations of pollen” he concludes.
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