Airborne Pollen – COVID Risk

Angie Szumlinski Health, Studies

The outbreak of coronavirus pandemic appears to coincide with the tree pollen season in the northern hemisphere as it occurred in the spring of 2020. In a study conducted by an international team headed by researchers at the Technical University of Much (TUM) and the Helmholtz Zentrum München, it was determined that members of high-risk groups can protect themselves by watching pollen forecasts and wearing dust filter masks.

The team showed that airborne pollen can account for, on average, 44% of the variation in infection rates, with humidity and air temperature also playing a role in some cases. High pollen concentrations lead to a weaker immune response in airways to viruses that can cause coughs and colds. When a virus enters the body, infected cells usually send out messenger proteins which is also the case with SARS-CoV-2. These proteins signal nearby cells to escalate their antiviral defenses to keep the invaders at bay. But if pollen concentrations are high and pollen grains are inhaled with the virus particles, fewer antiviral interferons are generated.

What can we do to protect ourselves? People at high-risk should monitor pollen forecasts for the next few months and wear a particle filtering mask when pollen concentrations are high to assist in keeping both the virus and pollen out of the airways. Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!