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Effects of Ambient Pollen Concentrations on Frequency and Severity of Asthma Symptoms Among Asthmatic Children

DellaValle, Curt T.; Triche, Elizabeth W.; Leaderer, Brian P.; Bell, Michelle L.

doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e31823b66b8

Background: Previous studies on the associations between ambient pollen exposures and daily respiratory symptoms have produced inconsistent results. We investigated these relationships in a cohort of asthmatic children using pollen exposure models to estimate individual ambient exposures.

Methods: Daily symptoms of wheeze, night symptoms, shortness of breath, chest tightness, persistent cough, and rescue medication use were recorded in a cohort of 430 children with asthma (age 4–12 years) in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. Daily ambient exposures to tree, grass, weed, and total pollen were estimated using mixed-effects models. We stratified analyses by use of asthma maintenance medication and sensitization to grass or weed pollens. Separate logistic regression analyses using generalized estimating equations were performed for each symptom outcome and pollen type. We adjusted analyses for maximum daily temperature, maximum 8-hour average ozone, fine particles (PM2.5), season, and antibiotic use.

Results: Associations were observed among children sensitized to specific pollens; these associations varied by use of asthma maintenance medication. Exposures to even relatively low levels of weed pollen (6–9 grains/m3) were associated with increased shortness of breath, chest tightness, rescue medication use, wheeze, and persistent cough, compared with lower exposure among sensitized children on maintenance medication. Grass pollen exposures ≥2 grains/m3 were associated with wheeze, night symptoms, shortness of breath, and persistent cough compared with lower exposure among sensitized children who did not take maintenance medication.

Conclusion: Even low-level pollen exposure was associated with daily asthmatic symptoms.

Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.

From the aSchool of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT; bDepartment of Community Health/Epidemiology, Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, RI; and cSchool of Public Health, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

Submitted 10 February 2011; accepted 6 September 2011; posted 14 November 2011.

Supported by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grants ES07456, ES05410, ES11013 and ES01247. The authors reported no other financial interests related to this research.

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Correspondence: Curt T. DellaValle, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, 195 Prospect St, New Haven, CT 06511. E-mail:

Copyright © 2012 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.