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Living Close to the Equator May Boost Risk of Asthma, Allergies

Update Date: Feb 04, 2013 01:06 PM EST

Do you have allergies no matter what the pollen count outside says? That may be because of where you live. That's what a study recently conducted by researchers from the University of Melbourne, the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Monash University and the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania in Australia would seem to suggest. The study found that, despite all the wonderful weather, people who live closer to the equator are more likely to suffer from allergies and asthma than people who do not.

According to Everyday Health, researchers conducted a study with 5,729 participants. The study was conducted between the years of 1968 and 2004. At the start of the study, all of the participants were children. The survey asked parents to answer a questionnaire about their child's respiratory system, and the children were administered a clinical examination and a lung function test. Every six to 12 years, researchers administered a follow-up survey. Researchers also performed a study on a smaller group, made up of 1,396 people, who answered a questionnaire and received a skin-prick test for allergens. Researchers noted the latitude of each participant's address and linked that to data of ultraviolet rays obtained from satellite observations.

Researchers found that people who lived closer to the equator and who had experienced high levels of UV-B exposure were more likely to suffer from asthma, hay fever, food allergies and sensitivity to dust mites and mold. "UV-B rays exposure is higher for people living in areas closer to the equator," explained study lead author Vicka Oktaria in a statement. "This increase in UV-B may be linked to vitamin D, which is thought to modify the immune system. These modifications can lead to an elevated risk of developing allergy and asthma."

Health Day reports that an estimated 75 to 85 percent of people with asthma also suffer from an allergy.

Both conditions can be life-threatening and dangerous if not properly treated.

The study was published in the most recent issue of the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 

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