WebMD reports that veterans returning from Iraq appear to be at increased risk for developing allergies.
Soldiers deployed to the Persian Gulf were twice as likely to develop allergic rhinitis (nasal allergies) after returning home.
“All of them say they didn’t have allergies before [they served],” says Dr. Anthony Szema, chief of allergy of Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Dr. Szema suspects that air pollution and dust are to blame for the increase in allergies among Iraq war veterans. Dust storms are common in the region, and soldiers’ tents and trailers are typically full of dust.
“Or, maybe it is lung injury due to inhaling a lot of pollution,” speculates Dr. Szema. Soldiers are exposed many pollutants, including the exhaust from various weapons, plastics, and pesticides.
Dr. Szema suggests that soldiers invest in a protective mask and HEPA air purifier to reduce the chances of developing allergies.