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Air pollution and health

There are different ways in which bad air quality can impact our health. Its effects vary but even the relatively benign ones can negatively influence our quality of life. From this section, you will learn what air pollution is, how it causes different conditions, as well as how its consequences can be countered.

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere.1

Air pollutants in the form of Particulate matter are mixtures of solid and liquid particles suspended in air. There are other gases and chemicals that contribute to air pollutants.3

Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities & forest fires are common sources of air pollution.

Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide & sulfur dioxide.1

WHO data show that almost all of the global population (99%) breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits & contains high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures.1

How does air pollution impact health?

Outdoor & indoor air pollution cause respiratory & other diseases and are important sources of morbidity & mortality.1

Poor air quality can irritate the eyes, nose, & throat, cause shortness of breath, aggravate asthma & other respiratory conditions.2

Multiple studies worldwide have shown an association of particulate matter exposure & asthma, allergic rhinitis , & pollen sensitization.3

Increased allergic symptoms, reduced lung function, & increased sensitization to common aeroallergens is noted in those living in close proximity to roads (about 100 m) & high traffic density.3

Urban outdoor air pollution is responsible for 4.2 million deaths worldwide each year & is observed to increase the risk of developing respiratory conditions including Allergic rhinitis, asthma, & chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.4

What is allergic rhinitis (AR)?

AR prevalence is estimated at 10–30% of adults in the United States & Europe, reported as the most frequent atopic disease in developed countries with up to 40% incidence in children.4

Allergic rhinitis (AR) is a non-communicable, IgE-mediated inflammatory disease caused by type 1 hypersensitivity reactions induced by allergen exposure.4

Allergic rhinitis is where your nose gets irritated by something you're allergic to, such as pollen , causing sneezing and other symptoms.5

Symptoms include:5

  • sneezing
  • an itchy nose
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • itchy, red and watery eyes
  • a cough
  • the roof of your mouth being itchy

This usually happens within minutes of coming into contact with something you're allergic to.5

Outlined lightbulb with rays of light


Allergic rhinitis – commonly known as hay fever – is a group of symptoms affecting the nose. But don’t be misled by the name – you don’t have to be exposed to hay to have symptoms. And hay fever doesn’t cause a fever.6

How are air pollutants and allergic rhinitis interrelated?

Allergic rhinitis (AR) affects up to 40% of the worldwide population.7

NO2 was found to be positively associated with Allergic rhinitis. As NO2 is considered as a surrogate of vehicle emissions, e.g diesel exhaust particulate (DEP), it is advised that AR patients pay extra attention to reducing exposures to traffic related air pollution.8

Health studies directed to agricultural workers indicate a significant association between pesticide application & allergic rhinitis.9

Exposure to ozone for example may increase sensitization to outdoor aeroallergens.9

In addition to ozone, another air quality aspect that deserves additional consideration relative to allergic rhinitis is wildfire. Wildfire smoke contains a complex mixture of carcinogenic and respiratory substances including VOCs, ozone and particulate matter (PM). In addition to VOCs and ozone, there are a number of epidemiological studies confirming the association of PM with allergic respiratory diseases.9

What can you do to alleviate allergic rhinitis symptoms caused by air pollution?

A thorough history & physical examination are the cornerstones of establishing the diagnosis of allergic rhinitis .10

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  • ClaritineTM (Loratadine) is a Second generation antihistamines that has fewer side effects than the first generation drugs, especially sedation.11
  • The effect of ClaritineTM will last a whole day (24 hours) & should help you to continue your normal daily activities & sleep.12
  • ClaritineTM (Loratadine) relieves symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis (for example, hay fever ), such as sneezing, runny or itchy nose, & burning or itchy eyes in adults & children over the age of 2 years.12
  • ClaritineTM (Loratadine) is safe & effective even for children over the age of 2 years.12,13,14

    1. World Health Organization (WHO). Air pollution. Overview. Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1. Last accessed: 17.8.2022.
    2. Spare the air. Air Pollutants and Health Effects. Who's at risk. Available at: https://www.sparetheair.org/understanding-air-quality/air-pollutants-and-health-effects/whos-at-risk. Last accessed: 17.8.2022.
    3. Singh M, Hays A. Indoor and Outdoor Allergies . Prim Care. 2016; 3. 43(3): 451-63.
    4. Li CH, Sayeau K, Ellis AK. Air Pollution and Allergic Rhinitis : Role in Symptom Exacerbation and Strategies for Management. J Asthma Allergy . 2020; 13: 285-292.
    5. NHS. Allergic rhinitis. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergic-rhinitis/. Last accessed: 17.8.2022.
    6. American college of Allergy, Asthma & immunology. Hay fever . Overview. Available at: https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/hay-fever/. Last accessed: 17.8.2022.
    7. Rosario Filho NA, Satoris RA, Scala WR. Allergic rhinitis aggravated by air pollutants in Latin America: A systematic review. World Allergy Organ J. 2021;14 (8): 100574.
    8. Hsieh SP, Hsieh CJ, Tseng CC, Yiin LM. Allergic Rhinitis: Association with Air Pollution and Weather Changes, and Comparison with That of Allergic Conjunctivitis in Taiwan. Atmosphere 2020; 11(11): 1152.
    9. Ziska LH. Climate, Carbon Dioxide, and Plant-Based Aero-Allergens: A Deeper Botanical Perspective. Front Allergy. 2021; 2: 714724.
    10. Small P, Keith PK, Kim H. Allergic rhinitis. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2018;14(Suppl 2):51.
    11. Mann RD, Pearce GL, Dunn N, Shakir S. Sedation with "non-sedating" antihistamines: four prescription-event monitoring studies in general practice. BMJ. 2000; 320 (7243): 1184-7.
    12. Claritine 1mg/ml syrup UAE approved package leaflet June 2016.
    13. Claritine 10 mg tablets UAE approved package leaflet June 2016.
    14. Sidhu G, Akhondi H. Loratadine. [Updated 2022 Mar 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK542278/


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