Background: The effect of outdoor aeroallergen exposure in asthma may be enhanced by air pollutants, including ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particulates, and by certain weather conditions. It is not yet established whether these interactions are important in determining asthma morbidity at the population level.
Objective: We have investigated the joint effects of aeroallergens, rainfall, thunderstorms and outdoor air pollutants on daily asthma admissions and Accident and Emergency (A & E) attendance using routinely collected data between 1993 and 1996 from Derby in central England.
Methods: Daily counts during the aeroallergen season of grass and birch pollen, basidiospores, Didymella, Alternaria and Cladosporium, maximum 1 hour ozone and nitrogen dioxide and daily average black smoke measurements, all made in the vicinity of the city centre, were categorized in tertiles. Rainfall was classified as dry, light (</= 2 mm) or heavy (> 2 mm). The modifying effect of outdoor pollutant levels, and rainfall or the occurrence of a thunderstorm, upon the effects of individual aeroallergens on asthma admissions and A & E attendance were investigated by fitting appropriate interactions in log linear autoregression models with adjustment for potential confounders.
Results: We found a significant interaction between the effects of grass pollen and weather conditions upon A & E attendance, such that the increase with grass pollen count was most marked on days of light rainfall (adjusted rate ratio for >/= 50 vs < 10 grains/m3 at lag 2 days = 2.1, 95% CI 1.4, 3.3). Asthma admissions increased with Cladosporium count. We found no statistically significant interactions between effects of any individual aeroallergen and outdoor air pollutant upon either measure of asthma morbidity.
Conclusions: Rainfall and thunderstorms are important effect modifiers in the relation between grass pollen and measures of acute asthma morbidity. Interactions between ambient levels of aeroallergens and chemical pollutants in the Derby area do not play a major role in determining asthma admissions and A & E attendance.