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Difficult times for allergy sufferers due to the increasing spread of mugwort ambrosia
The highly allergenic mugwort ambrosia, originally from North America, is increasingly preparing in Europe. The result is a significant extension of the allergy season for hay fever patients - also in Germany. In addition, medical care costs for those affected range from “up to one billion euros a year”, according to the latest announcement from the Ludwig Maximillians University in Munich (LMU).
So far, if hay fever has occurred "especially between March and July, when most trees and grasses are blooming in Germany", the pollen invasion by mugwort ambrosia will result in a considerable extension of the hay fever season, reports the research team led by Professor Franziska Ruëff from the LMU Allergy Center. The mugwort ambrosia (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) is spreading more and more in Germany and Europe, where it blooms from August to October. Due to the highly allergenic effects, "allergies can cause massive complaints," the LMU said.
Considerable costs due to the increasing ragweed allergies The scientists at the LMU Allergy Center participated in a current study to estimate the "allergy costs" that are caused by the increasing spread of mugwort ambrosia. The study was carried out as part of the project "Invasion: Evolutionary, ecological and social consequences of biological invasions" funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). It is "important to estimate the cost of ragweed allergies, because they have to be seen in relation to the costs that containment of the plant causes," said the environmental economist Dr. Wanda Born, head of analysis at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig.
The LMU scientists surveyed patients who "suffer from a pollen allergy and have been shown to be sensitive to ragweed" on their health problems, the number of days they need to see a doctor and the number of days they were unable to work due to their allergy. It was found that the majority of the patients had to see a doctor five times a year because of their symptoms. Around a third of the respondents were hospitalized for around five days a year due to the allergy. Around 20 percent were unable to go to work on average for 14 days a year.
Limitations of quality of life due to pollen allergy The researchers estimate that one in five Germans already suffers from hay fever, although it remains unclear how many are also sensitive to ragweed pollen. In other countries, such as Hungary, where the plant is already widespread in some regions, it is estimated that around half of hay fever patients are allergic to the pollen of mugwort ambrosia. In this country, the experts assume that if the plant continues to spread, up to ten percent of the population - i.e. more than eight million people - could become ill. Allergy to ragweed pollen is usually a considerable burden for those affected. Around 50 percent of them are “restricted to simple physical activities during the pollen season,” reports the LMU. The severe impairment of the "quality of life of the patients is also shown by the fact that more than a third of them would support the fight against mugwort ambrosia financially," explained Professor Franziska Ruëff.
Treatment costs for allergy sufferers can rise by 15 percent In fact, ambrosia allergy is associated with considerable costs not only for health insurance companies but also for patients. According to the results of the current survey, patients spend an average of around 200 euros a year to protect them from allergies (e.g. installing pollen filters). A "reliable cost estimate" of the total costs due to the ragweed allergy is only possible on the basis of extensive "studies on the occurrence of the plant and its spread". However, the current survey results enable the data to be extrapolated, which already shows that "the treatment costs for pollen allergy sufferers could increase by 10 to 25 percent," reports the LMU. This would entail additional annual costs of around 1,300 to 2,100 euros per patient. Oliver Gebhardt from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig explained that it is "almost impossible to calculate the costs that can be attributed to a specific allergen", but the current study shows "which dimension the problem can have - above all because it Ambrosia blooms so late and is favored by the spread of climate change. "
In the worst case, hay fever can turn into asthma. For people with pollen allergy and hay fever, the increased spread of ragweed is a considerable additional burden. They increasingly suffer from the typical hay fever symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, respiratory tract irritation and chronic fatigue. In the worst case, pollen allergy can also lead to asthma. In naturopathy, a wide variety of methods are used for treatment, from acupuncture, hypnosis, autologous blood therapy and intestinal rehabilitation to homeopathy. Conventional medical therapy usually includes the administration of antihistamines and glucocorticoids (cortisone). There are also eye drops and nasal sprays to relieve the symptoms. One treatment option that addresses the causes of the symptoms and with which the allergy can be completely overcome under certain circumstances is hyposensitization. By regularly administering small doses of the allergens, the immune system should get used to the substances and the allergic reaction should be switched off. However, the process is still controversial to this day. (fp)
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