NEWS

Athens plagued by olive, Thessaloniki by cypress pollen

Experts have not found major differences between Greece’s urban centers regarding causes of allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis, allergic asthma or skin rashes. However, the latest studies show that allergy sufferers in Athens react more to cereal and olive pollens (particularly now that olive trees are being planted for decorative purposes in parks and along streets), while in Thessaloniki, due to the proximity of the Seikh Sou Forest, people suffer more from cypress pollen. Pine trees are much misunderstood since although they release vast quantities of pollen during the flowering period, the pollen is not a strong allergen. Winds play a large part in dispersing pollen, often taking it dozens of kilometers away. Gioulekas told Kathimerini that pollens circulate in the atmosphere from February to September, with the biggest quantities appearing in May. Fungi spores are in the atmosphere throughout the year, with the largest concentrations in the summer months. Researchers have observed differences in the frequency of allergies among city and countryside residents. The modern way of life and changing dietary habits, smoking (which affects not only the smokers themselves but those around them, particularly children within the home), stress, new chemical substances, and atmospheric pollutants are all directly linked with the greater incidence of allergies and asthma. No specific pollutants are thought to be responsible for the increase in allergies, but atmospheric pollution has been shown to harm the respiratory system, while days where pollution levels are high correspond with more asthma crises and respiratory allergies, according to Panayiota Dimaka, general secretary of the Hellenic Society of Allergists, Asthma and Clinical Immunology (ww.allergy.org.gr). Recently, research centers have been investigating the relationship between immunization programs and the increase in allergies, as well as the link between prescribing antibiotics for infants with later reactions to allergens. There are indications that giving antibiotics to children under one year of age could double their chances of suffering allergies down the road.