Think you could be allergic to traffic? While this may sound like a joke, the truth is that some people actually do find that their allergies are connected to the fact that they live near a road with a high volume of cars and trucks.

The Effects of Air Pollution on Symptoms

A new study conducted by German researchers that was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in 2008 found that a person's proximity to heavily trafficked streets could indeed correlate with the extent of his allergy symptoms.

In fact, the study, which reviewed health data on kids and where they live, revealed some striking patterns between children's allergy and asthma symptoms and exposure to a variety of traffic pollutants, including fine dust and nitrogen dioxide. Scientists found that people who were around increased amounts of these substances regularly seemed to have more intense allergic reactions to pollen and other allergens. In addition, bronchial asthma and eczema symptoms were also more pronounced in these individuals. While scientists have long suspected such a connection between the effects of air pollution caused by traffic and the risk of developing allergies, this is one of the first formal studies to officially confirm the link.

Location Matters

While all of this sounds interesting, you may wonder just how strong the effects of air pollution can be on allergies. The experts say that all depends on how close you are to a busy road. The study estimated that the escalation of symptoms can be anywhere from one to 50 percent more than that of counterparts living in more rural locations. Conversely, the further from traffic that study participants lived, the less likely they were to have symptoms.

While location does seem to matter, though, scientists also noted that children with the highest allergy risks also had a parental history of allergy as well, so genetics may factor into the equation.

What You Can Do

So if you live near a busy road, what can you do? While the odds could be stacked against you when it comes to your allergy risk, there are things you can try to manage your allergy symptoms so you don't have to pack up and move anytime soon. See the list below for some ideas of ways to take control.

  • Keep your windows closed and run your air conditioning whenever possible.
  • Drive with your car windows closed.
  • Wash your hair after spending time outdoors.
  • Launder clothes frequently.
  • Talk to your doctor about the most effective allergy medication for your symptoms.
  • Consider getting allergy shots if your symptoms persist.




American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology