As climate change increases the duration and intensity of the pollen season, allergies to airborne pollen are increasingly common in Europe. Yet, it is not well recognized that high pollen concentrations may increase respiratory and cardiovascular events, leading to mortality and excess hospitalizations. I aim to investigate how short-term exposure to pollen is related to mortality, hospitalization and allergic symptoms, both on its own and synergistically with air pollution and weather.
I will develop spatiotemporal exposure models of pollen for the years 2003-2022 based on a network of 14 pollen measurements stations in Switzerland. Taking advantage of large, real-world datasets without selection bias (Swiss National Cohort) and the efficient case-crossover study design, I will investigate the population effects of pollen on daily respiratory and cardiovascular mortality and hospitalization, also accounting for variation in air pollution and weather conditions. To explore individual sensitivity, I will conduct repeated measurements of lung function and airway inflammation in a dedicated panel of 400 allergic patients complemented with opportunistic repeated accounts of self-reported symptoms from the “e-symptoms” app by Swiss Allergy Centre. To provide personalized prevention recommendations and enhance quality of life for the allergic population, I will derive exposure-response relationships based on prevalent pollen, air pollution and weather triggers and individual symptom reports, allowing me to ultimately forecast symptom severity using machine learning techniques.
This highly innovative project utilizes available nationwide health datasets and systematic novel data collection methods (in the in-depth panel study), to better understand the role of pollen in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases at both personalized and population levels. The project will prevent and reduce health effects due to pollen, which constitute a large burden on health and economy.