Red alert in metropolitan France. The National Aerobiological Surveillance Network has forecast a particularly devastating pollen peak this weekend in more than 80 French departments. What exacerbate the allergies that have already been raging for several weeks, to the point of filling medical offices. "At the moment, general practitioners see between five and six patients every day for allergic rhinitis, it's huge!", says Professor Frédéric de Blay, head of the thoracic pathologies department at the Strasbourg University Hospital and president of the French Federation. of allergology. It must be said that a third of French people born after 1980 suffer from pollen allergy. "There is not a single French family that does not know of an allergic case", summarizes Frédéric de Blay, who speaks of "evil of the century".
Everywhere in France these high levels are explained by the multiplication in the air of grass pollen. This botanical family includes some 12,000 plants that are generally assimilated to grass and cereals: tares, wheat, rye, barley, corn, reeds, reed, etc. "Grasses are ubiquitous plants: they are everywhere, even in town", explains doctor Nhân Pham-Thi, allergist, interviewed on France 5 on Friday. The pollination of these very common plants is carried out by the wind, multiplying the pollen present in the air at the time of spring. “The concentration of pollen is high this year and the patients are particularly symptomatic”, notes the president of the French Federation of Allergology.
The allergic reaction is explained by the fixing of these pollens on the body, in particular at the level of the nose and the eyes, soliciting the immune system. As if these allergens were viruses or bacteria, immune defenses are set up and create the physiological reactions symptomatic of colds (sneezing, fatigue, stuffy nose, etc.) even though winter is over. It is a kind of “physiological bug”: the immune system considers as a threat pollens which are however not.
” READ ALSO – Severe allergies: the monoclonal antibody revolution
If most of the time the evil is limited to light symptoms, although very unpleasant, in certain cases the allergies to pollens worsen. “The inflammation can descend from the airways to the bronchi, and there it is potentially serious. We can reveal an asthma likely to lead us to the emergency room”, warned doctor Nhân Pham-Thi on Friday. “If people don't know they have asthma and encounter these kinds of symptoms, that's dangerous. It is necessary to consult very quickly”, insists the doctor allergist.
Rather rare a few years ago, more and more serious cases are observed by doctors. "Allergy is a silent epidemic that is spreading quietly among the French population," warns Frédéric de Blay. The World Health Organization recently revealed that 50% of the French population could be allergic in 2050, compared to 30% in 2010 and less than 3% in 1970. This explosion of cases is largely explained by climate change. “CO2 works like a kind of fertilizer on plants: the more its concentration increases, the more the plants release pollen,” explains Christine Rolland, director of the Asthma and Allergies association. Fine particle pollution contributes to bringing the pollen down deeper into the bronchial tree.
” READ ALSO – Pollen allergies are more severe this year
In addition to the disease stricto sensu, the proliferation of allergic disorders entails increasingly significant direct and indirect costs. "Allergies cost several billion euros per year in France," says Frédéric de Blay. ANSES (National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety) concludes at the end of a recent study that allergies to ragweed pollen alone, a grass reputed to be very allergenic, cause in France an annual cost of between 415 and 654 million euros – if we include medical care, production losses linked in particular to work stoppages, as well as the loss of quality of life. The amount will only increase “due to the planned enlargement of the areas infested with ragweed”, concludes ANSES.
Will France end up following Japan's example? The Japanese Prime Minister is preparing to take measures to fight against pollen allergies, which, according to him, constitute "a social problem" and "a national disease". Another Japanese politician even said, "If hay fever is eradicated, the Prime Minister's name will go down in history." A study carried out by the Japanese company Panasonic sets the economic losses caused by allergies at 1.5 billion euros per day at the worst time of the spring season in the country of the rising sun alone. The leading cause of reduced productivity in the world, ahead of cardiovascular diseases, respiratory allergies are very costly to the economy.
However, the disease is not incurable. "You have to go see a doctor!", insists Christine Rolland, director of the Asthma association