Black Patients Face Higher Risk of Pollen-Related Asthma Hospitalizations

By Tamara Thomas - November 20, 2023

Some types of pollen are associated with an increased risk of hospitalization for asthma, particularly in patients who are Black and younger, according to a study published in Environment International.  

For this study, researchers at the Rollins School of Public Health, led by Dr. Noah Scovronick, analyzed pollen data and emergency department (ED) visits for asthma and wheezing over 26 years (1993-2018) in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia.

The researchers observed 686,259 asthma visits in the ED, which increased over time. They also found positive associations between hospitalizations for asthma, wheeze, and exposure to certain pollen types, including trees (maple, birch, pine, oak, willow, sycamore, and mulberry), 2 weeds (nettle and pigweed), and grasses.

“The absolute number of ED visits related to asthma has increased over time, but the risk of going to the ED because of pollen exposure has not,” Dr. Scovronick said. “That was counter to what we expected.”

In addition, the researchers observed that Black patients made up about half of all ED visits for asthma, compared to about one-third for White patients.

The researchers speculate that the racial disparity in ED visits may be due to several factors, including where people live, differences in access to air conditioning or air filtration, reliance on walking or public transportation to get around, racial differences in access to care, and asthma treatment adherence.

“For several of the pollen species we looked at, Black patients were around twice as likely to go to the ED for allergic asthma as their white counterparts,” the researchers wrote. “We found that to be true throughout the study period.”

Finally, the study found that younger patients (aged 5-17 years) were more often hospitalized for asthma or wheezing due to pollen exposure than adults. These differences between children and older adults were particularly pronounced for willow pollen.

“Some, but not all, types of pollen are associated with increased ED visits for asthma/wheeze. Associations are generally higher in Black and younger patients and appear to have decreased over time,” the researchers concluded.

Source: Medical Xpress

Primary source: Environment international

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