Welcome to guest blogger, Aerobiology researcher Frances Coates.
Asthma and allergies are becoming more and more prominent in society and outdoor allergens like ragweed and birch take their toll on the economy and those who have to deal with them. A report from Health Canada indicates that asthma is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions affecting Canadians, and since this is probably true of most countries, it explains why research in this field has such far reaching implications. While treatment of allergies is big business, unfortunately very little attention and resources are invested in monitoring the causes.
Aerobiology is the study of the release and dispersion of airborne biological materials, such as pollen, spores, microorganisms, or viruses. Aerobiology Research Laboratories’ focus is on allergy-triggering particles: pollen and fungal spores. We aren’t allergists or medical professionals, but rather we specialize in environmental monitoring. Our mission is to provide allergy sufferers, physicians, government agencies, and pharmaceutical companies with accurate information about the levels of these allergy-triggering particles. Providing information is a primary goal for us.
The reason why it is important to study outdoor allergens is because of the fluctuations and changes in seasons from one year to the next, and from one location to another. The start and end of the seasons can vary by as much as a month from one year to another. If people are trying to use their medications based on the actual seasons it is important that they have information about their local environment that is as accurate as possible.
This is particularly true of the tree seasons. For instance, birch tree pollen release in Ottawa over the last two decades has started as early as April 9th and as late as May 4th, and often varies from one extreme to the other within just a couple of years. As allergy treatments are considered to be most effective if taken before allergic reactions occur, it is important that both allergy sufferers and the physicians treating them are aware that they are treating their allergy on time.
It is also important to know which allergens are prevalent at a location if one is choosing to move and has specific allergies. For instance, ragweed is most prevalent from Québec to Manitoba and does not really exist in western provinces; east of Québec, ragweed only exists in certain areas of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Many of the trees (such as poplar and birch) are found in all provinces, but there are many which are only found in certain regions of the country. To keep the public informed of this important information, Aerobiology Research Laboratories operates 30 monitoring sites across Canada and provides reports and forecasts to various media outlets, including television, mobile apps and web sites. Through these reports we try to provide as much information as we can to show what and how much outdoor allergens are occurring at each site.
I look forward to further ‘blogs to expand on some of these topics in the future.