Nature-based solutions ‒ to protect from allergy and conserve nature

Nature-based solutions ‒ to protect from allergy and conserve nature

Annual Congress 2022 of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

(Prague, Czech Republic, 1-3 July 2022) The human body is an ecosystem connected to other natural ecosystems. Immune defence protects us from attack of bacteria, viruses, and invasion of parasites. In allergy, the immune system misreads the harmless matter, e.g., from pollen, pets, or food causing symptoms and disease. Allergy has been on the rise from the 1950s along with escalating urbanization. Farming environments and rural areas with a traditional, small-scale agricultural lifestyle protect from allergy. Changes in environment and lifestyle are the main cause of the ‘allergy epidemic’. Extensively built environment has increasingly disconnected human populations from the evolutionary home: soil, natural
waters, air, and their immunoregulatory effectors, namely microbes and biogenic chemicals.

Biodiversity ‒ variety of genes, species, and ecosystems ‒ is fundamental to human life and its loss concerns both the macro- and microworld. The staggering human dominance on earth causes climate change and nature loss, which are interconnected. In 2019, the European Commission stated that nature-based solutions are inspired and supported by nature, costeffective, provide environmental, social, and economic benefits, and help build resilience. In 2016, WHO consented, that green spaces promote health. Going ‘back to nature’ is not an alternative, but natural elements, i.e., allergy protective factors, can be taken back to everyday life, also in cities. This is especially important to children, but citizens of all ages  benefit. Immune homeostasis should be promoted by improving nature connectiveness: what you eat, breathe, and touch!

Urban greening is a trend which should be enforced. A 4-week controlled exposure to a nature-rich environment in a day care setting diversified the microbiota and influenced immune regulation. In adults, a 2-week intervention with indoor green walls enriched skin bacteria and influenced imune balance. A protective effect of residential greenness on adult depressive disorders has also been shown. Early in life exposure to the agricultural environment may prevent from type I diabetes. Thus, measures for active allergy prevention may pave the way to prevent non-communicable diseases in general.

“In allergy, a public health intervention was tested in Finland (2008-2018) emphasizing immune tolerance and nature contacts. Indeed, re-visiting the allergy paradigm reduced markedly the disease burden. A 10-year regional prevention programme of asthma, diabetes, obesity, and depression started 2022 in the city of Lahti, the European Green Capital 2021.
The public health and environmental goals are in the same action plan. At the citizen level, activities are focused on diet (e.g., in day-care, schools, workplaces), physical exercise/mobility, housing environment and overall nature contacts,” says professor emeritus Tari Haahtela, who chaired the Finnish Allergy Programme, at the opening plenary session of the EAACI Congress in Prague. “We have a win-win -situation to simultaneously improve public health, mitigate global warming and stop nature loss. The COVID-19 pandemic showed societal priorities, health and health safety come first. The window is open to healthcare professionals, allergists among them, to use their authority to achieve a major change. We can do it!”


The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) is an association of clinicians,
researchers and allied health professionals founded in 1956. EAACI is dedicated to improving the
health of people affected by allergic diseases. With more than 13 000 members from 125
countries and over 75 National Allergy Societies, EAACI is the primary source of expertise in
Europe and worldwide for all aspects of allergy.

EAACI Headquarters, Hagenholzstrasse 111, 3 rd Floor 8050 Zurich, CH- Switzerland
Tel: +41799561865

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