Pollen collector device can help allergy sufferers

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Mini device on a backpack: pollen collectors can help allergy sufferers

Millions of people in this country suffer from a pollen allergy. Allergy sufferers, however, usually lack detailed information about pollen count and their own exposure. A small device could remedy this in the future.

12 to 16 million pollen allergy sufferers in Germany Even if it is only a small device, it could serve millions of allergy sufferers in Germany in the future. The Mainz geoinformatics specialist Klaus Böhm (48) and the software developer Torsten Sehlinger (38) are currently developing a personal pollen collector to measure their own allergy burden. A study on the mini device still in development is currently starting at the Berlin Charité. The German Society for Allergology estimates the number of pollen allergy sufferers nationwide to be around 12 to 16 million. This is reason enough for the two researchers in Mainz to get to the bottom of the pollution in more detail, because pollen measurement still has deficits.

Measuring stations at around 45 locations Allergy sufferers who suffer from an itchy nose or watery eyes, especially in spring and summer, can be checked for allergies using a so-called “prick test”. "If you have antibodies against the proteins of birch pollen, swelling and redness develop there," explains allergist Karl-Christian Bergmann (71) from the Berlin Charité. "Then you can say with a high probability: It is a hay fever with birch pollen." In addition, information from pollen collectors is also added. These are measuring stations at a height of around 15 meters at around 45 locations across Germany. "So we know roughly what's going on in Germany. We can only guess what is flying ten kilometers away and appreciate that. ”

Symptoms entered in digital diary About six years ago, geoinformatics specialist Böhm had the idea of ​​recording personal allergy symptoms and relating them to the concentration of pollen in the area. “Allergy sufferers across Germany should record their symptoms in a digital diary. Then you could see on a map, how am I, how are the people in my neighborhood? ”Said the Mainz University of Applied Sciences professor. The information in the respective diaries was networked with the pollen data from the German Weather Service.

Inaccurate pollen information From the researcher's point of view, however, there was a catch: “There was no motivation for allergy sufferers to do this permanently. And the available pollen information was too imprecise. ”Because values ​​were extrapolated where collectors were missing. For example, the closest measuring points for Mainz are in Bonn, Marburg and Mannheim / Heidelberg. "It's a wide range of errors," says Bergmann. “A study for a new preparation or an immunotherapy is expensive and costs around one million euros. You can't really afford such uncertainties. ”

Entering complaints using a smartphone app This is where the “Personal Pollen Sampler” comes into play, a device that sucks in air and can be worn on a backpack, for example. As Böhm's ex-student Sehlinger reports, the air is directed onto a sticky strip where pollen, soot and fungal spores end up. This strip is then moved on by motor in order to get a time profile of the pollen load. For this, the location is determined by GPS. The mini device had to be set by a doctor and the patient had to change the cassette and load it every one to two days. The allergy sufferer enters his complaints on the nose, eyes or bronchi via a smartphone app.

Useful for knowledge about the right form of therapy. Even if the German Allergy and Asthma Association (DAAB) provides allergy sufferers with an overview of where pollen counts are registered on the Internet, this "pollen trend" depends on how many affected people report. The association believes the development of the pollen sampler makes sense. “If that were successful, it would of course be very helpful,” says biologist Anja Schwalfenberg in Mönchengladbach. Especially for knowing which pollen the patient comes into contact with and which form of therapy is therefore appropriate.

Interest all over the world The allergist Bergmann in charge of the study in Berlin is also convinced: “The device will find interest all over the world. It will also be used by allergists and clinics. "He also said:" There will also be other uses in kindergarten, strollers or in the car. "Because children would have a higher risk of getting hay fever or pollen asthma later if they did would be born in a month in which pollen flies. Böhm and Sehlinger received the Rhineland-Palatinate Innovation Award 2013 for their development.

Unclear when device can be used in practice However, it is still unclear when the small pollen collector can be used in (doctor's) practice. It is therefore important for people with pollen allergies to continue to be content with the conventional options. Conventional doctors advise you to stock up on symptom-relieving medication at an early stage. As a causal treatment, many doctors offer hyposensitization, a treatment in which the immune system receives the allergen in ever higher doses as a syringe or in tablet form in order to bring about an immunological habit. However, the treatment is sometimes experienced as stressful, as it can lead to side effects, e.g. lead to allergic reactions and circulatory symptoms. In addition to homeopathy and acupuncture, naturopathy also uses methods such as autologous blood therapy, hypnosis, Bach flower treatment and intestinal rehabilitation. (ad)

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