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Pollen Exposure During Pregnancy May Increase The Risk Of Paediatric Asthma

One of the most prevalent causes of allergies, pollen are fine powder produced by trees, flowers, grasses, and weed. Pollen allergy is widely common and when breathed in, the pollen can cause disturbances as the immune system mistakes the (harmless) pollen for an intruder and develops chemical to fight against the pollen.

While some people have pollen allergies year-round, others only have them during certain times of the year.

The Link Between Pollen And Asthma

A common trigger for asthma, the allergen pollen can trigger the condition in an individual; resulting with your lungs being affected. As aforementioned, when the pollen enters your respiratory system, the immune system attacks the pollens considering it to be foreign objects.

Exposure to pollen triggers an allergic response in your body as the immune system proteins or antibodies consider the pollen to an invader and acts up by the antibodies binding to the allergen [1] . And hence, the chemicals released by your immune system results in a runny nose, itchy eyes, skin reactions etc.

In individuals with asthma, the pollens can severely affect the airways and lungs, triggering the symptoms and thus worsening the condition.

Thunderstorm asthma is a type of weather-based condition that can be critical for individuals with asthma. It is a mix of pollens and weather conditions that occurs when the airborne pollens come in contact with rain droplets or wind and get broken down into tiny particles [2] .

These broken down particles can enter the deeper parts of your lungs and can unsettle your respiratory system. It can cause shortness of breath, fast breathing, a tight feeling in the chest, and severe coughing with wheezing.

Pollen Exposure May Cause Paediatric Asthma

A study conducted by researchers in the La Trobe University, in Melbourne, Australia explored the impact of pollen exposure in pregnant mothers and examined whether it would have an impact on the soon-to-be-born child.

The study pointed out that in maternal pollen exposure during the last trimester have the chances of increasing the risk of respiratory diseases such as asthma in the child. The findings of the study asserted that children who were exposed to pollen or born during the pollen season had high immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels in umbilical cord blood. It is an indication of allergic diseases which can develop in the near future [3] .

Bircan Erbas, Associate Professor from La Trobe University in Melbourne ad lead researcher in the study said, "We know that outdoor pollen exposure during the first couple of months after birth can lead to allergic respiratory diseases and we suspected that exposure during the later stages of pregnancy may also be important" [3] .

The researcher also pointed out that various studies have pointed out that babies with high levels of IgE in cord blood can go on to develop allergies later in childhood, but the impact pollen exposure (in utero) have on it were unclear.

The aforementioned study was supported by another study published in the journal Environment International, which asserted that being pregnant for an entire grass pollen season may have a protective effect on the babies from asthma problems. The current study provides a new understanding of the prediction, prevention and management of respiratory diseases like asthma [4] [5] .

However, the study also asserts that there are several factors that can determine who gets asthma, as pollen exposure is only one of the aspects.

Ways To Manage The Impact Of Pollen On Asthma

As an addition to the findings of the study, here are some science-backed ways to manage the impact of pollen on you and your baby [6] [7] .

  • Find out which type of pollens can be a problem in your area and aim to avoid them.
  • Try to stay indoors and close the doors and windows on high-pollen days and windy days.
  • When travelling in the car, keep the windows shut.
  • Consider wearing a face mask.
  • Wash your hands and face when you return home to reduce the amount of pollen.
  • Talk to your doctor.

Infographics by Sharan Jayanth

View Article References
  1. [1] Li, Z., Xu, X., Thompson, L. A., Gross, H. E., Shenkman, E. A., DeWalt, D. A., & Huang, I. C. (2019). Longitudinal Effect of Ambient Air Pollution and Pollen Exposure on Asthma Control: The Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Pediatric Asthma Study. Academic Pediatrics.
  2. [2] Shrestha, S. K., Katelaris, C., Dharmage, S. C., Burton, P., Vicendese, D., Tham, R., ... & Erbas, B. (2018). High ambient levels of grass, weed and other pollen are associated with asthma admissions in children and adolescents: A large 5‐year case‐crossover study. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 48(11), 1421-1428.
  3. [3] Erbas, B., Dharmage, S. C., Tang, M. L., Akram, M., Allen, K. J., Vicendese, D., ... & Bardin, P. G. (2015). Do human rhinovirus infections and food allergy modify grass pollen–induced asthma hospital admissions in children?. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 136(4), 1118-1120.
  4. [4] Sun, X., Waller, A., Yeatts, K. B., & Thie, L. (2016). Pollen concentration and asthma exacerbations in Wake County, North Carolina, 2006–2012. Science of the Total Environment, 544, 185-191.
  5. [5] Anenberg, S. C., Weinberger, K. R., Roman, H., Neumann, J. E., Crimmins, A., Fann, N., ... & Kinney, P. L. (2017). Impacts of oak pollen on allergic asthma in the United States and potential influence of future climate change. GeoHealth, 1(3), 80-92.
  6. [6] Olaniyan, T., Jeebhay, M., Röösli, M., Naidoo, R., Baatjies, R., Künzil, N., ... & Parker, B. (2017). A prospective cohort study on ambient air pollution and respiratory morbidities including childhood asthma in adolescents from the western Cape Province: study protocol. BMC public health, 17(1), 712.
  7. [7] Poole, J. A., Barnes, C. S., Demain, J. G., Bernstein, J. A., Padukudru, M. A., Sheehan, W. J., ... & Cohn, J. R. (2019). Impact of weather and climate change with indoor and outdoor air quality in asthma: A Work Group Report of the AAAAI Environmental Exposure and Respiratory Health Committee. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 143(5), 1702-1710.