Acute effect of air pollution on respiratory complaints, exhaled NO and biomarkers in nasal lavages of allergic children during the pollen season

Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2003 Jun;131(2):127-37. doi: 10.1159/000070928.


During 2 months of the pollen season, the acute and putative adjuvant effect of traffic-related air pollution on respiratory health was investigated in children sensitised to grass pollen or house dust mite (HDM). Respiratory complaints were objectified via measurement of exhaled NO and inflammatory mediators in nasal lavage (NAL). During the study children, skin prick negative (n = 31) or positive to grass pollen (n = 22), HDM (n = 34) or grass pollen + HDM (n = 32), kept a daily diary on respiratory symptoms, and NAL and exhaled air was sampled twice a week. The level of air pollutants and pollen was monitored continuously. Like children sensitised to HDM, those sensitised to pollen reported respiratory complaints (shortness of breath, itchy eyes or blocked nose) more frequently than non-sensitised children during (but not before) the pollen season; the respiratory complaints of sensitised children were independent of the pollen level. In addition, exposure to increased levels of PM(10) induces 'shortness of breath' in pollen- and HDM-sensitised children, whereas ozone induces a blocked nose in HDM-sensitised children. Combined exposure to PM(10) + pollen and O(3) + pollen induces a blocked nose in both HDM-sensitised children and children sensitised to pollen + HDM. Significant positive associations were found between eNO and the levels of NO(2), CO, PM(2.5) and pollen in both sensitised and non-sensitised children. At the start of the pollen season, the NAL concentration of eosinophils and ECP in pollen-sensitised children was increased compared to winter, but their levels were not further affected by increased exposure to pollen or air pollution. In conclusion, during the pollen season, sensitised children continuously report a high prevalence of respiratory complaints which coincides with increased levels of upper and lower airway inflammatory markers. No additional pro-inflammatory effect of air pollution was observed, which indicates that air pollution does not facilitate allergen-induced inflammatory responses.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Allergens*
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Breath Tests / methods
  • Child
  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Eosinophils / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nasal Lavage Fluid / chemistry
  • Nasal Lavage Fluid / immunology
  • Nasal Obstruction / etiology
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Pollen / immunology
  • Pyroglyphidae / immunology
  • Respiration / immunology
  • Respiration Disorders / etiology*
  • Respiration Disorders / immunology*
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology
  • Seasons
  • Urban Population


  • Allergens
  • Biomarkers
  • Nitric Oxide