AzelastinE-News - 1/2011

Dear readers,

The first spring flowers, budding trees, birdsong, informed us about the upcoming warmer time of this year. There is hardly anyone who doesn't want to get outside. Rollicking around with the kids in the garden, or just sitting quietly in the warming rays of the sun and watching the plants grow, it's simply a lot of fun. Even gardening can be very relaxing. Those first rays are also drawing city dwellers out to public parks for picnics, bicycling, jogging, walking or skating. But the warmer season also coincides with the main flowering season for most plants. Those allergic to pollen have to fight with the irritating symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and accompanying conjunctivitis. Many of them avoid going outside and completely do without any kind of outdoor sport. But sport strengthens the immune system and is thus also an absolute must for allergy sufferers.

In the current issue of our newsletter, we would therefore like to give those with pollen allergies a few tips for engaging in outdoor sport more easily. To make sure your next summer holiday in Europe does not coincide with the next wave of allergies, we have put together some information to help readers choose a low-pollen holiday spot. As part of this, we are also throwing some light on the highly allergen-laden olive tree. At the end, we will clarify a question concerned parents have about their children.

A wonderful, symptom-free season is the wish of
your Rhinitis newsletter team

Holiday time - pollen time in Europe

The pollen that most frequently cause allergies in Europe belong to the groups of grasses, trees and weeds. Among weeds, the stinging nettle has the greatest allergenic potential, but also the entire pellitory (nettle) family which is widespread throughout Europe. The greatest portion of airborne pollen comes from the family of grasses with more than ten thousand plant species. Grasses producing the greatest amount of pollen belong to the taller-growing meadow plants: timothy grass (phleum pratense), common orchard grass (cocksfoot) or meadow cocksfoot (dactylis glomerata), meadow foxtail (alopecurus pratensis) and cultivated rye. The flowering season runs from May to the end of July, climaxing in June. In Mediterranean areas, is begins and ends one month earlier. At sea level, pollen are put out about two to three weeks earlier than they are at higher elevations.
The tree with the greatest allergic potential is the birch, which is very widespread in northern and middle eastern areas. In western Europe, birch trees bud at the end of March, in early April a bit further east. Further north, the period is delayed by a few weeks. The budding season lasts two to eight weeks. In Europe, the first of the birch family (fagales) to put out their pollen are the hazelnut and the alder. Due to the high degree of hybridising, sufferers from birch allergies can begin to sense their symptoms as early as the end of winter when hazel begins to bloom. The oak buds from April to May, the chestnut from May to June. In Mediterranean countries, cypress and olive trees are the trees that most frequently cause allergic reactions.

Where to travel?

The blossoming times of plants within Europe vary. If you know exactly what you are allergic to, you can take a "holiday from your allergy." Plan your holiday during your "main allergy season" and travel to countries where you are sure to evade the allergenic pollen. Here you can find a small selection of holiday regions within Europe that are suitable for allergy sufferers.

North Sea: Islands and coastal regions are ideal. The onshore breeze blowing in during the day hardly bears any pollen at all. The island of Helgoland (Germany) lies around 70 kilometres from the mainland in the middle of the North Sea. Allergy suffers can breathe freely here because hardly any pollen blows over to the island from the mainland. On the Frisian islands along the coast (Germany), on the other hand, things are a bit different: If the wind comes from land, pollen from the mainland can be blown in, but with an ocean breeze, these islands too are virtually pollen-free.

The high country: The climate in high mountains above 1,500 metres (4,500 feet) is extremely dust-, contaminant-, pollen- and germ-poor. Blossoming times are very brief. Grass pollen are barely in evidence. The swamp or reed grasses that grow there usually do not cause allergy symptoms. Mugwort and nettle pollen can hardly be found. Tree pollen are also barely in evidence most of the time. Birch pollen allergy sufferers, however, should keep away from mountains at the end of May when the alder buds as it is related to the birch. From the end of June, there is hardly any problem when traveling to the mountains. Domestic dust mites virtually do not exist either.

Norway: The blossoming season in Norway is later and briefer than in central and southern Europe. Tree pollen, such as birch pollen, for instance, is only airborne in May. Grasses bloom from June to August. Rye is not cultivated at all. Due to the low occurrence of pollen, the good weather and the beautiful autumn scenery, September is an ideal month to holiday there.

The Mediterranean: In the Mediterranean region, it is already very dry in spring and plants hardly blossom. The mild, sunny ocean climate in the south of Spain is one favourable holiday destination for allergy sufferers. Starting in June, there is no longer any occurrence of grass pollen. Birch and rye are non-existent. A holiday on the coast of the south of Italy can also be very symptom-free for allergy sufferers. Grasses only blossom until June, birch and rye are not found there at all. The breezes are mostly onshore and thus virtually pollen-free. They also prevent pollen from getting to the coast from inland. In Calabria, for instance, there are also many thermal spas that frequently offer relief to people with chronic or allergic respiratory tract disorders.

However, always inform yourself when planning your holiday about the pollen count at your holiday destination. Always take along enough anti-allergic medications on your trip and spread it out over several pieces of luggage just in case one suitcase or the other is lost. Should you, however, require a medication at your destination i.e. with the antihistamine azelastine you have a nasal spray available that works against all the rhinitis and eye symptoms of allergic rhinitis within only 15 minutes (eye drops within 3 minutes). And you can even take it after you have already begun to show your first symptoms, although you can also use it as a preventive at any time. Azelastine is available in most every country in Europe. Just go to the closest pharmacy and ask about it.

Wanted poster: Olive tree, olea europaea

Family: oleaceae
Natural range:Mediterranean region, Near East, South Africa.

Olive trees today are an important component of Mediterranean vegetation and the cultural landscape there. It has been cultivated as a crop plant dating all the way back to the 4th Century BCE. The 10 to 20 metre (30-50 foot) high trees grow on plantations and in forests as well as in bushes on dry, rocky soil and thrive best at annual mean temperatures of 15 to 20°C (60-70°F) and with annual precipitation of 500 to 700 mm (2-3 inches). They can tolerate great heat but suffer a bit from frost if winter is cold. The olive tree can become several centuries old. Its smooth, grey-green rind turns into a fissured bark. The small leaves of this evergreen tree, which taper to a tip at the end, have a grey-green top surface and a shining, silvery and grey hued underside with little hairs that reduce the amount of water the tree loses to its surroundings.

Olive trees bud from the end of April to early June, but the budding can already start in January. One budding inflorescence can hold anywhere from 10 to 40 blossoms. After pollination, a single-seeded stone fruit, an olive, forms. Inedible in its raw state due to its bitterness, it first has to be marinated in brine. The pollen of the olea europaea are one of the most significant causes of seasonal allergic rhinitis and rhino-conjunctivitis in the Mediterranean region. In Greece, more than 37% of atopic persons react sensitively to the oleaceae. A high degree of hybridising has been observed between the olive tree, the ash and the privet, as well as among all members of the oleaceae family.

Tips from the experts:

Today - hay fever and outdoor sport

  • With a pollen allergy, you should take account of the flowering seasons of plants when planning your sport regimen. One glance at the local pollen count forecast can help you do so.
  • Pollen counts are lower in the morning than in the evening. Therefore, if possible plan your sporting activities for the morning hours.
  • The air holds a particularly large amount of pollen on warm, sunny, dry and slightly breezy days.
  • Sport after a cleansing rain is ideal for those with a pollen allergy.
  • If the pollen count is too high, it is better to move your sport indoors to a gym, leisure centre or to a swimming pool.
  • Your airways are less irritated at the water's surface due to the high humidity there. On open water, the pollen count is low. Water sport is thus a good alternative for allergy sufferers.
  • Those allergic to tree and grass pollen should avoid sport around fields and meadows.
  • Start slowly. If you are feeling comfortable, you can then gradually increase the intensity of your workout.
  • If you get runny congestion during sport, a nasal spray, such as one with the antihistamine azelastine can bring relief within 10 to 15 minutes.
  • You can protect your eyes by using tinted sport goggles. Eye drops with the active agent azelastine, for instance, can relieve within just 3 minutes any symptoms of conjunctivitis that may occur.
  • If allergy symptoms get significantly worse during a workout, stop!
  • If symptoms increase and performance diminishes, consult an allergist because hay fever can turn into asthma.
  • After sport, your sport clothing should be removed and washed immediately. Showering and hair washing are also an absolute must.
  • Clean the lenses of your glasses. They also catch pollen.
  • Do not dry laundry on an outside clothesline because pollen can be deposited on it there.

Questions from people plagued by allergies:

My husband and I have allergies. Will our children also suffer from them?

Although the tendency towards allergies does have some family predisposition, children of allergy sufferers do not necessarily have to suffer the same fate as their parents. If both parents have allergies, the risk of allergies among their children will be about 30%. If only one parent is affected, the risk lies by about 20%. But not all those who have a genetic predisposition are doomed to become allergy sufferers. However, 15% of children without any genetic predisposition also end up suffering from allergies anyway. The reason for this is that lifestyle and the environment also play a huge role in the development of allergic reactions. Most allergies among children manifest themselves at ages from 3 to 6.

All the best to your family from your newsletter team!