Eucalyptus pollen allergy and asthma in children: A cross-sectional study in South-East Queensland, Australia
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Objectives: To investigate Eucalyptus (gum tree) pollen allergy in children in relation to geography, particularly vegetation, and its relationship to asthma. Methods: Males (n = 180) and females (n = 200) aged 9 to 14 participated. Some were healthy (asymptomatic), some had asthma, and some had other symptoms associated with atopy. School students were from three urban coastal schools and one school from a nearby semi-rural elevated area (range) near Brisbane, Australia. Coastal and range locations featured different distributions of Myrtaceae family vegetation (including Eucalyptus, Melaleuca, Leptospermum species). Skin prick test (SPT) responses to 15 commercial allergens were compared. As well, responses from coast versus range groups, and ‘asthma’ (n = 97) versus ‘healthy’ status (n = 107) groups, were compared. Results: SPT responses (≥3mm wheal diameter) indicate that children with asthma are 31.1 times more likely to be allergic to Eucalyptus pollen extract (OR: 31.1; 95%CI 4.1- 235.7) compared to healthy children. Dust mite (p = .018), Eucalyptus (p = .046) and cockroach (p = .047) allergen SPT responses (wheals ≥3mm) were significantly greater in participants located on the coast versus range as determined by Fisher’s Exact Test (α .05). For each location, percentage of positive responses (wheals ≥3mm) was greatest for ‘dust mite’ (30.9%-46%), ‘cockroach’ (18.1% -35%) and ‘Bermuda grass’ (10.6%-19.4%). Conclusions: The results support the hypothesis that proximity to Myrtaceae vegetation is related to positive SPT response and that Eucalyptus is an important allergen for children with asthma. Substantial response to olive allergen, in the absence of olive trees, suggests that the response may be driven by substances in other plants, perhaps Melaleuca quinquenervia, which abounds in coastal areas. Implications: Response to Eucalyptus allergen indicates that changes in gardening practice in schools and public areas may be appropriate. The findings pose validity questions regarding the use of some commercial allergens due to cross-reactive responses and the sources of those responses.
Copyright 2015 Jane E. M. Gibbs. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety