Spatiotemporal monitoring of allergic rhinitis symptoms in The Netherlands using citizen science
L. A. de Weger, P. S. Hiemstra, E. Op den Buysch, A. J. H. van Vliet
Airborne pollen is a major symptom trigger in allergic rhinitis patients, but the impact of pollen differs among patients and regions and is influenced by environmental factors. To study these complex relationships, there is a need for data on the severity of symptoms in space and time. ‘Citizen science’ is increasingly recognized as an effective tool to monitor changes in our environment. The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility of a citizen science-based survey to monitor spatiotemporal variation in allergic rhinitis symptoms.
Participants were recruited through the Web site Allergieradar.nl. After registering by completing an extensive questionnaire, they entered (preferably daily) their symptoms of eyes, nose, and lungs on a scale from 1 to 10, as well as their geographic location.
The registration questionnaire revealed that the majority of the participants (77%) had physician-diagnosed hay fever and 65% of the participants had been tested positively for their allergy. This study shows that the symptom scores of the participants are related to (i) pollen concentrations in the air, (ii) the self-reported sensitivity profile, and (iii) the sales of prescription antihistamines in The Netherlands.
Our data indicate that the collection of allergic rhinitis symptom data by ‘citizen science’ is feasible and has an added value in studies on the impact of pollen.