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The impact of pollen load on quality of life: a questionnaire-based study in Lithuania

Šaulienė, Ingrida, Šukienė, Laura, Kainov, Denis, Greičiuvienė, Jūratė
Aerobiologia 2016 v.32 no.2 pp. 157-170
Betula, allergens, carbon dioxide, climate change, flora, geographical distribution, hay fever, humans, lifestyle, nose, people, pollen, pollination, quality of life, vegetation, Lithuania
Populations worldwide have been increasingly affected by allergic rhinitis associated with pollen allergens. Alterations in the geographical distribution of pollinating flora resulting from climatic changes and increased production of pollens caused by higher atmospheric CO₂, have changed the environment in which humans reside. This study, carried out in Lithuania, aimed to demonstrate how people with pollen allergy are affected by symptoms associated with changing pollen loads and to evaluate the resultant changes in human quality of life. This study assessed pollen loads in Lithuania during 2013–2014. Skin prick tests were carried out on 665 individuals aiming to evaluate sensitivity to pollen allergens. Self-reports on symptoms and their impact on quality of life were collected from each study subject. There were 24× to 42× differences in inter-annual peaks of Betula pollen concentrations, while differences of plant pollen concentrations of the other genus/families varied from 1.5 to 92 % on peak days. Positive reactions to pollen allergens were reported in 54 % of the study subjects; 90 % of these subjects had been continuously suffering from moderate-to-severe symptoms of allergic rhinitis. The most frequently reported symptoms were sneezing (99 %), runny nose (98 %) and stuffy nose (97 %). The dominant group of subjects reported symptoms during the entire period of vegetation (7 months). This study demonstrated that people with pollen allergies have attributed symptom-associated worsening of their quality of life to the typical periods of unavoidable exposure and have made only minimal changes in their lifestyle during the season of pollen load.