“In 2050, half of the population will suffer from ENT allergies”

The first one who sneezes right now is not necessarily positive for Omicron, but rather for birch pollen, for example. Or perhaps ash. Cat hair ? Mites? The list is long and as…

The first one who sneezes right now is not necessarily positive for Omicron, but rather for birch pollen, for example. Or perhaps ash. Cat hair ? Mites? The list goes on and as tissues eat into our forests, the number of users continues to grow. Allergies are now considered a public health issue, as the number of patients affected is growing. Have we become more vulnerable to our environment? Doctor Marc Sapène, pulmonologist and allergist at the Bel Air clinic in Bordeaux, vice-president of the Asthma and Allergy France association, founder of the École du souffle, answered our questions.

It is said that the number of people suffering from ENT allergies is growing. If yes, why ?

It is a reality and this phenomenon is linked to contemporary lifestyles, what is called the “mono environment”, particularly indoors and urbanized. Pollution in cities, diesel particles cause inflammation of the respiratory mucous membranes, bronchi, nose, throat. This inflammation has the direct consequence of allowing pollen to pass through, which awakens the immune system causing hypersensitivity, with all the symptoms that we know: rhino, asthma, sinusitis, cough…

Allergies affect how many people?

Today, 30% of the population. If this increase continues at the same rate, in 2050, 50% will be affected. Paradoxically, diagnoses take a long time, between six and seven years, due to the lack of specialists. Skin tests and blood tests provide rapid information on the patient’s status. These delays are not without consequences in the long term, this disease is very underestimated. In addition to asthma which can be severe, rhinitis, a permanently stuffy nose causes insomnia, repeated sleep apnea, cardiovascular problems…

“Children are too protected, they lack various infections during their early childhood, and their immune system is not exercised enough”

How to explain this inflammation of the mucous membranes when we have always lived with plants?

Another cause is debated in the scientific community: the hygienist society. Children are “too” protected, they lack various infections during their early childhood, and their immune system is not exercised enough, which makes them much more vulnerable as they grow up. This is exactly what explains the spectacular epidemics of bronchiolitis and influenza this year. During the confinements, we were not exposed to these viruses and our immune system remained on standby, collective immunity did not work. On the other hand, we are now seeing the appearance of pollen storms, which is directly linked to climate change. These “storms” correspond to episodes of high concentration of pollen in the air in a short time.

Do we suffer more from pollen allergies in the countryside than in the cities?

Well no, we suffer much more in the cities. Because the inflammation is increased by the particles linked to pollution, but also because of our way of life, much more inside the houses, themselves polluted by a whole bunch of cleaning products in particular. When I speak of lifestyles in the plural, it is also about how to eat. Junk food, that is to say industrial food, or too fatty, or too sweet and salty, causes inflammation in the body which promotes hypersensitivity to allergens. The problem is complex, if we combine urbanization, pollution, the reduction of pediatric infections, we can fully understand how the phenomenon has taken hold and amplified.

Have we made progress in treatment? How to protect yourself from galloping allergies?

There is a secret to properly managing this pathology: to anticipate. Mechanical prevention must be started early. Ventilate homes early in the morning – before the comings and goings of cars – and late at night. It is better to take antihistamines that block the inflammation of the mucous membranes, upstream. I plead for a preparation of the body, because when a crisis falls on you, it’s like a chemical cascade and it’s hard to go back. So antihistamines and corticosteroids to manage a crisis immediately. And desensitization, which has made progress: it does not cure but reduces the symptoms. You can protect yourself by putting the mask on the outside, which is very effective in filtering pollen.

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