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Pollen counts influence in web-search for asthma and rhinitis

João Gaspar Marques1,2; Pedro Carreiro Martins1,2,3,4; Joana Belo1; Cátia Alves1; Miguel Paiva1; Elsa Caeiro4,5; Paula Leiria-Pinto1,2

1- Serviço de Imunoalergologia, Departamento de Pediatria, Hospital de Dona Estefânia, Centro Hospitalar de Lisboa Central, EPE, Lisboa
2- CEDOC, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas (FCM), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Campo dos Mártires da Pátria, Lisboa
3 – Gabinete de Investigação, Centro Hospitalar de Lisboa Central, EPE, Lisboa
4 – Sociedade Portuguesa de Alergologia e Imunologia Clínica
5 - Instituto de Ciências Agrárias e Ambientais Mediterrânicas, Universidade de Évora, Évora, Portugal

- Aceite para publicação por extenso “Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology“

Background: Asthma and allergic rhinitis have aeroallergens as one of main triggers.  Pollen levels are associated with asthma-related emergency department visits although no data is available about other resources used by asthma patients in pollen peaks, inclusively web-search for information. Rhinitis web-search has been previously correlated with pollen counts but only for USA, UK and Germany and no data is available in other climates.
Objective: Identify a correlation between pollen counts and web-search for asthma and rhinitis.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of Lisbon´s pollen data was performed and compared to Google® Trends (GT) search indexes for asthma and rhinitis from 2007 to 2012. Correlations were calculated for pollen counts (total and individual) and GT search indexes. Analyzed pollens included Betulaceae, Castanea, Chenopodiaceae, Compositae, Cupressaceae, Myrtaceae, Olea, Palmae, Parietaria, Pinaceae, Plantago, Platanus, Poaceae, Quercus suber, Quercus, Rumex, Salix, Umbelliferae and Urtica.
Results: During study period main pollens identified were Urtica (18.3%), Cupressaceae (15.1%), Olea (12.9%), Parietaria (10.9%) and Quercus (10.2%). Pollen counts had a cyclic pattern with spring peaks. Total pollen count had a statistically significant positive correlation with web-search for rhinitis (0.366; p=0.002) and asthma (0.305; p=0.009). Pollens with positive significant correlation with rhinitis were Cupressaceae, Platanus and Urtica. For asthma, pollens with positive significant correlation were Cupressaceae, Platanus, Quercus and Urtica.
Conclusion: Pollen counts seems to be significantly correlated with asthma and rhinitis web-search independently of search language or climate area. Google® Trends may constitute an important tool to identify respiratory allergic disease outbreaks.

 Palavras Chave: asthma; rhinitis; pollen grains; search engine