Pollution’s Impact on Allergies

Allergies make everyone miserable, and they’re becoming more and more common. Many scientists believe increased air pollution is to blame.

In Singapore, air pollution can manifest as haze, an atmospheric phenomenon which causes dust, smoke and other dry particulates to impair the clarity of the sky. These aerosols usually arise from complex chemical reactions of sulphur dioxide gases (emitted during combustion) converting into small droplets of sulphuric acid. In Southeast Asia, the haze is particularly debilitating during the Southwest monsoon season from July and October, due to strong winds that funnel forest fire smoke from nearby regions1

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So What’s the Link Between Air Pollution and Allergies? 2

If you’ve been suffering from constant sneezing, coughing, wheezing, runny nose, or itchy red eyes, pollution may be to blame, especially if weather conditions indicate high concentrations of haze.

These symptoms, otherwise known as an allergic reaction, happen when airborne particles enter through the nose and mouth. Though these particles don’t cause harm or carry disease, the body sees them as foreign intruders. To get rid of these particles, the body’s immune systemX immune system
The body’s defense system against infections and foreign substances.
releases a chemical called histamineX histamine
An inflammatory mediator that is released by the immune system after being exposed to an allergen. When an allergen enters your body, mast cells that are located in the nose and sinus membranes release histamine. Histamine then attaches to receptors on nearby blood vessels, causing them to…
, which, in turn, is what triggers allergic response.2

Particles that trigger allergies are called allergens. There are countless airborne particles that can be allergens, including the substances that form haze.

Common Air Pollutants

In addition to smoke caused by forest fires, various emissions in urbanized locations often worsen haze and air pollution, contributing to the allergens in the atmosphere.

Some of these emissions include3:

Particulate pollution refers to tiny solid fragments or liquid droplets in the air. Diesel fuel exhaust contributes to the increase in allergies as the largest source of particulate pollution.

Tobacco smoke produces a chemical that attaches to allergens like dust, dander and pollen, triggering allergic reactions.

Ground-level ozone is a mix of pollutants produced when sunlight and heat react to chemical emissions from vehicles, power plants and other industries.

Sulphur dioxide is a colorless gas with a strong odour that is formed when coal or oil is burned. It can also cause inflammation and breathing problems.

Nitrogen oxides are gases that come from the burning of fossil fuels. Exposure can cause eye and skin irritation as well as asthma and respiratory problems.

Allergy Symptoms Caused by Air Pollution

Haze and air pollution often lead to respiratory symptoms. Exposure to the particles that make up haze or air pollution may result in the following4 :

  • Constant sneezing, coughing, or wheezing
  • Itchy, congested, runny nose
  • Itchy, watery, red eyes
  • Congested airways or tightness in the chest
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Skin irritations like itchy rash, welts, bumps, or hivesX hives
    Hives (also known as urticaria) are swollen, red bumps or welts on the skin that are itchy, and can appear as a result of the body’s reaction to certain allergens. These bumps or welts can appear anywhere on the body, including the face, lips, tongue, throat or ears.

These symptoms can worsen into a condition called Allergic Respiratory Disease (ARD), which manifests as recurring rhinoconjunctivitis (allergic reactions involving the nose and eyes) and allergic asthma.5 ARD affects up to 13.1 percent of the Singapore population6.

Prevention and Treatment Recommendations

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from the harmful effects of pollution on your allergies.

  • Check the daily air quality index in your area. Stay indoors when the colour-coded alert reaches orange.
  • Wear a mask outside if your allergies are severe and the air quality index is poor.
  • Reduce outside activities during pollenX pollen
    A fine, powdery substance (typically yellow in colour) consisting of microscopic grains that are discharged from the male part of a flower (also known as stamens), or from the male cone of a tree.
    and haze season and keep your windows closed
  • Use an air purifier and a high-grade air filter that stops particle pollutants.

When you experience allergyX allergy
An allergy is the exaggerated response of the immune system to a foreign substance that is generally safe and poses no threat to the human body.
symptoms, make sure to take your allergy medication, such as Clarityn®. As the #1 allergy brand worldwide, Clarityn® solutions provide fast-acting, non-drowsy relief from allergy symptoms during the day and at night.