As if we did not already have enough problems with birch, hazel, alder and grasses - more and more people in Central Europe are suffering from allergic symptoms due to hypersensitivity to the pollen of ragwort and ash. The biologist dr. Attention Siegfried Jäger from the University Hospital Vienna. The biggest concern for the pollen expert is the ragweed introduced from America. Hunter: "In Europe, only regions above 400 to 500 meters high, the Mediterranean and the high north, are really safe from ragweed."
Ragweed will be a problem in Germany
Ragweed's long-term growth, especially in the Carpathian Basin, in some regions of northern Italy and in the Rhône Valley, gradually moves on towards Central Europe. Jäger: "One reason for this seems to be the global warming, especially the prolonged growth period due to the accumulated warm late summer, which benefits ragweed, and ragweed will also be a problem in Germany, " predicts Jäger. "First of all, especially in the eastern states."
Professor Gerhard Schultze-Werninghaus, President of the German Society for Allergology and Clinical Immunology (DGAKI), therefore recommends that ragweed be considered in the standard allergy test.
Up to twelve percent of the population affected
Other European countries have already had some painful experiences with the overseas guest. In regions of Italy or France where much ragweed thrives, up to 12 percent of the population suffer from ragweed allergy - more than one in ten. Only recently, increasing numbers of cases were reported from Switzerland. The affected drives it to the heyday of the plant in late August / early September in droves to the doctors.
Treatment of patients with ragweed allergy alone at the central hospital in Milan cost just under € 1.4 million in 2002. Even people who live in areas where ragweed does not thrive are not safe from pollen. Jäger: "The pollen has even been detected at the Arctic Circle in Finland, probably from the Ukraine."
Preventing the spread of ragweed is difficult. Consistent harvesting of stocks or regular mowing are indeed effective, but very expensive, weed killers (herbicides) often harm other plants and pollute the environment. Hunter: "So far, agents that kill only ragweed and at the same time are environmentally friendly are not yet on the market."
In any case, to the allergist
No matter if "new" or "old" allergy triggers - in specialized medical treatment all allergic persons belong. DGAKI President Schultze-Werninghaus: "An allergologically trained specialist can determine by specific history, skin tests, blood tests and possibly further test procedures, whether allergy is present and against which substances it is directed." This is the prerequisite to initiate a causal therapy to be able to. "
In pollen allergies, the so-called specific immunotherapy has proven itself. Here, patients are regularly injected with standardized solutions with the allergy triggers under the skin. The success rates of specific immunotherapy also called hyposensitization reach over 90 percent in pollen allergies. Also in ragweed standardized extracts are available for hyposensitization.
Ash pollen allergy through holidays in the Mediterranean?
Another "newcomer" among allergy sufferers seems to be ash trees. High concentrations of ash pollen, which can lead to allergic complaints, used to occur almost exclusively in Switzerland. Only in recent years, they are also observed in neighboring countries.
One possible reason, in turn, is climate change: as the weather gets warmer, the trees thrive and produce more pollen. However, Jäger suspects another cause: "In the past, many farmers fed their livestock with branches of ash trees in the winter, but this is no longer practiced today and more pollen may be flying because the trees are no longer pruned regularly."
Our desire to travel is partly to blame for the increase in ash pollen allergies. Anyone who goes on vacation to the Mediterranean in May / June on the Mediterranean may develop hypersensitivity to olive pollen. Because olive and ash pollen are very similar, those affected may then be allergic to the ash pollen at home next year.
An ash pollen allergy can easily be confused with a birch pollen allergy - both tree species flower at the same time. Therefore ash pollen should be considered in the standard allergy test, demands DGAKI President Schultze-Werninghaus.
Mold in the bathroom favors allergy in the summer
Also, allergies to the mold "Alternaria" are often confused - with a grass pollen allergy. Because mushroom spores and grass pollen fly in the summer almost at the same time: molds let their spores fly immediately after the grass pollen time. And because the mushrooms like to grow on dead grasses and similar material, the places where the nose runs are also identical.
Alternaria allergies are also on the rise. "Meanwhile, about ten percent of allergy suffer from a mold allergy, " explains Jäger. Cause of the increase may be a problem in the apartments. Alternaria grows even in damp indoor areas. The number of fungus-contaminated apartments is constantly increasing, partly because of hermetically closing windows and incorrect ventilation of the rooms.
Hunter: Through the constant contact with fungal spores in the apartment can develop a hypersensitivity. It also makes itself felt outside when the Alternariapollen fly in the summer. "Fortunately, an Alternaria allergy can also be treated with a specific immunotherapy.