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Dr. Clifford Bassett

How Smog Can Worsen Asthma and Grass Allergy in Summer

Q. My asthma is always harder to control in summer. I have a grass allergy, and smog affects me more when it’s hot. Do the two triggers somehow act together to increase chances of an attack? How can I keep control?

Dr. Bassett: Smog contains air contaminants, such as ground-level ozone, which researchers have associated with a rise in allergy symptoms and asthma risk. But according to a recent study* from Germany, these pollutants may also have the power to supercharge some airborne allergens.

The scientists found that ground-level ozone and auto exhaust may instigate chemical changes in certain pollens that could increase their allergenic potency.

In summer, both grass pollen and smog levels tend to be highest, providing the potential “double whammy” effect you may be experiencing.

Protective strategies include curtailing outdoor activities on high pollen count and pollution days, and pre-treating with prescribed allergy and asthma medications before heading out.

And don’t ignore your indoor air, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states may hold more pollutants than outdoor air. Consider installing HEPA filters in your air conditioning system or getting portable units, and decorate with house plants that may help to clean the air. For a list of top indoor air “scrubbers,” click here.

Dr. Clifford Bassett, allergist and asthma specialist, is the Medical Director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York (www.allergyreliefnyc.com; Twitter @allergyreliefny). He is also on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

*For more on the study referenced see this page.

Send your question to Dr. Clifford Bassett by email.
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