March 29, 2006 11:30 ET


New Data: Record smog and pollen significantly impacts allergy sufferers' overall quality of living, suffering Attention: Assignment Editor, Environment Editor, Health/Medical Editor, Lifestyle Editor, News Editor VANCOUVER, BC--(CCNMatthews - March 29, 2006) - --Experts suggest global warming increases pollen counts in areas where smog is high--

Allergy season has arrived and pollen counts are ready to peak, but allergy sufferers may have experienced runny noses, watery eyes and sniffling back in February due to the effects of smog on allergic suffering. Canada experienced record smog alert days in 2005, and according to the 2006 Reactine Quality of Life Index (1) issued today by Non-Drowsy Reactine, the number 1-selling allergy medication in Canada (2), one quarter of allergy sufferers claim that suffering increased by more than 50 per cent last year over previous years due to increased smog. In response, almost two thirds of sufferers claim their first line of defense is to increase medication.

"The effects of smog and pollution on allergic suffering is becoming well recognized," says Vancouver-based allergist and president of the BC Society of Allergy and Immunology, Dr. Ross Chang. "Smog itself may exaggerate or intensify symptoms. It has also been shown to stimulate the production of pollen in urban areas. As a result, allergic suffering is increasing in Canada and is extending beyond the traditional March to June timeframe."

Environment Canada states that air pollution is linked to varying degrees to a number of health concerns including: respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, neurological effects and allergies (4).

A review of the literature related to allergies and smog in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (Jonathan A. Bernstein MD. Heath effects of air pollution. JACI, 114-5, November 2004, 1116-1123) suggests that ragweed plants grow faster, flower earlier and produce significantly greater amounts of pollen in urban locations than in rural locations. Doubling carbon monoxide concentrations stimulated ragweed pollen production by 61 per cent. The authors suggest that significant increases in allergenic pollen will occur if global warming continues.

Further, the review showcases that smog has an effect on symptoms suggesting that emissions synergize with allergens in the upper respiratory system, enhancing allergen-specific IgE production.

While there is no consistent monitor of air quality nationally, in Toronto, for example, the number of smog alert days more than doubled in 2005 over 2004 (53 days versus 20 days). Cities such as Windsor, ON, Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal all reported increased advisory warnings. Similarly, pollen counts were higher than normal in 2005 due to the early, wet spring.

1. Suffering on the Rise: As a result of increased smog, almost one quarter (23%) of Canadian allergy sufferers believe their allergic suffering increased by more than 50 per cent in 2005 over previous years. One in 10 state their suffering increased by more than 75 per cent.
2. Quality of Life Decreasing: Three quarters claim that increased suffering as a result of record smog has had an "Impact" on overall quality of life. Almost one-quarter (23%) claim this has been "Significant."
3. The Impact: To reduce symptoms, sufferers claim that increasing medication is the first line of defense (62%), followed by closing windows (25%), decreasing outdoor activity (19%) and avoiding the outdoors overall (18%). Surprisingly, almost one in five (18%) are not taking additional steps to decrease their suffering and increase overall quality of life.
4. Municipal Accountability: Almost nine in 10 (88%) believe their city of residence has an obligation to reduce smog and pollution levels to assist those with allergies.

Sufferers support:
- Incentives for the purchase of hybrid vehicles (84%)
- The creation of more bicycle lanes (83%)
- Increasing or instituting taxes for corporations/organizations that pollute the environment (83%)
- Encouraging healthcare plans to cover the cost of allergy medication for urban dwellers (72%)
- Encouraging decreased road traffic during sunlight hours (71%)
- Offering free transit during smog alert periods (60%)

In fact, municipal action is not unheard of. In 2003 the City of Windsor, Ontario, in conjunction with Environment Canada, executed a pilot project, offering free bus service on smog advisory days. In 2004, the City of Waterloo offered free transit on the first smog advisory day in August.

"While I don't have a crystal ball, the 2006 season is expected to be just as tortuous on allergy sufferers as 2005," says Dr. Chang. "This means that sufferers are going to have to continue to block allergens and smog particulates more intensely if they want to enjoy improved quality of life."

Dr. Chang suggests the following Top Tips when smog and pollen are high:
1. Go Online: Check out your provincial online resource for air quality forecasting or start with Environment Canada's Clean Air web site
2. Avoid Outdoor Activity: Consider teleconferencing; close windows at home and in the car; leave lawn and garden care to others; and/or join a gym.
3. Block Smog and Allergens: Treat your symptoms with a second-generation antihistamine. Cetirizine (the medicinal ingredient in Non-Drowsy Reactine) was found to work faster (0.5 hours versus two hours) and last longer than desloratadine (the medicinal ingredient found in Aerius, an evolution of Claritin), showcasing the difference at shelf between treatment options3. Further, Reactine has the longest safety record (15 years) among second-generation antihistamines.
4. Slash Smog: Help reduce smog/pollution by conserving electricity, not allowing cars to idle, avoiding mowing lawns when the Air Quality Index is poor, and not using oil-based products where possible. Further, limit the amount of wood burned in fireplaces or woodstoves.

This is the second year Reactine, the number 1-selling allergy treatment in Canada, has conducted the Reactine Quality of Life Index. The 2005 Index focused on allergic suffering on overall QOL.

Non-Drowsy Reactine® provides fast, effective relief of symptoms associated with seasonal and year-round allergies and allergic skin reactions, such as hives. Non-Drowsy Reactine® can start to work within minutes - faster than other currently marketed oral antihistamines. Non-Drowsy Reactine® comes in four convenient formulations: Regular Strength, Extra Strength, Reactine® Allergy + Sinus and Reactine® Syrup for Children. Non-Drowsy Reactine® is owned by Toronto, ON-based Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.

For more tips on allergies and allergy solutions, check out

(1) Reactine Quality of Life Index 2006, Decima Research, February 2006. Study results are accurate within +/-5.2% to +/-5.7%
(2) ACNielsen Market Track, National All-Channel Latest 52 weeks ending January 21, 2006
(3) A. Purohit et al. Comparative activity of cetirizine and desloratadine on histamine-induced wheal-and-flare responses during 24 hours. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immun, June 2004
/For further information:
For more information or to book an interview with Dr. Ross Chang, please contact:
Danielle Rouleau or Ryan Lockhart, Environics Communications
(416) 969-2714 or (416) 969-2749 /

Contact Information

  • Danielle Rouleau, Environics Communications
    Primary Phone: 416-969-2714
    Secondary Phone: 416-920-9000 ext. 2714