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Allergies Health Center

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Iraq War Veterans Face Allergy Risks

Soldiers Deployed to Iraq Twice as Likely as Stateside Soldiers to Develop Allergies

Pollution, Dust Mites, Could Contribute

The study was not designed to show how serving in Iraq might increase susceptibility to allergies. But Szema tells WebMD that he suspects dust mites, air pollution, or both, may be to blame.

The tents and trailers where many soldiers sleep are often full of dust, he says. "And if they're air- conditioned, the humidity promotes the growth of dust mites."

"Or, maybe it is lung injury due to inhaling a lot of pollution," Szema says, pointing to the massive dust storms that plague the country. Other sources of pollution that are present in Iraq but not the U.S. include exhaust from rocket-propelled grenades and IEDs (improvised explosive devices), he says.

Szema says a lot more study, preferably following soldiers from enlistment through deployment to discharge, is needed.

In the meantime, a protective mask may help guard against new allergies or worse symptoms, Szema says.

He also recommends soldiers invest in a high-efficiency pollution air (HEPA) filter, which forces air through a special screen, trapping particles such as dust mites.

Clifford Bassett, MD, vice chair of AAAAI's public education committee and an allergist at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., notes that allergic rhinitis is on the rise throughout the world.

If you're suffering from a stuffed-up or runny nose or persistent sneezing that lasts more than a few days, see your doctor, he advises.

"Too often people trivialize allergies. Early and prompt treatment can reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life," Bassett tells WebMD.

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