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Citizen science app to track UK’s allergy sufferers

Britain Breathing logo

British allergy sufferers are to turn citizen scientists in a bid to decode the poorly understood world of seasonal allergies thanks to a free new app.

The app – called #BritainBreathing – a collaboration between the Royal Society of Biology, the British Society for Immunology, and The University of Manchester, aims to help the one in four people in the UK who suffer from seasonal allergies like hay fever and asthma.

Experts say the triggers are often poorly understood and little is known about why the incidence of these allergies is increasing.

#BritainBreathing is the first nationwide project aiming to better understand where and when allergy symptoms are occurring, what exacerbates them and why they’re on the rise. It launches on Android today. 

By using the #BritainBreathing app, sufferers will be able to track allergy symptoms they record about their eyes, nose and breathing, over time. This might help people to start thinking about what might be triggering their allergies. 

Dr Sheena Cruickshank, from The University of Manchester and British Society for Immunology, said: 

“Seasonal allergies are increasing in the West but we don’t know what is driving this. It could be pollution, super pollens, increased cleanliness, or a combination of factors. What has been missing to answer this question is wide scale human data about what is really happening. Because detailed information on pollen and pollution is available, we want to map Britain Breathing data onto that and perhaps come closer to understanding what really drives allergies, on both an individual and a national level.”

The #BritainBreathing app will allow the public to record their allergy symptoms in a simple and straightforward way and then anonymously share that data with researchers. This large open data set, which will also capture information on timing and location, can then be combined with other publicly available data, such as weather, pollen or pollution statistics, to build a better understanding of allergies and their triggers. From these data, scientists can build a clearer picture of the pattern and frequency of allergy incidence across the UK.

The researchers will also create up-to-date visualisations of the national crowd data, for example maps of where particular allergy symptoms are most frequently reported on any given day, so that users can compare their experience to others in their region and beyond.

Jon Kudlick, director of communications at the Royal Society of Biology said: 

“This is a ground breaking project as it will give users the chance to record and monitor the frequency of their own allergy symptoms, as well as then adding their experiences to the wider data set. Does air pollution add to the misery of those suffering with hay fever? Are people having more asthmatic symptoms in Manchester than in London, and if so why? These are the kind of questions we hope to help answer.”

“This is the Society’s fourth citizen science project. The Starling Survey, Flying Ant Survey and House Spider Survey have received tens of thousands of records over four years, and shown how effective people power can be in helping researchers to find answers to difficult questions.”

Find out more on the #BritainBreathing website 
Follow the project on Twitter

Download the app on Android

Watch our video explaining more about the project

-ENDS-

For press enquiries, please contact:

Natasha Little
Media Manager, Royal Society of Biology

020 7685 2553

07770 685 101

natasha.little@rsb.org.uk
www.rsb.org.uk 


Mike Addelman
Media Relations Officer, Faculty of Life Sciences, The University of Manchester
0161 275 2111
07717 881567
michael.addelman@manchester.ac.uk 

Jennie Evans 
Communication Manager, British Society for Immunology
0203 242 0694
07703 807 444
j.evans@immunology.org
www.immunology.org 

The Royal Society of Biology www.rsb.org.uk is a single unified voice for biology: advising Government and influencing policy; advancing education and professional development; supporting our members, and engaging and encouraging public interest in the life sciences. The Society represents a diverse membership of individuals, learned societies and other organisations.

The University of Manchester www.manchester.ac.uk, a member of the prestigious Russell Group, is the UK’s largest single-site university with 38,600 students. It has 20 academic schools and hundreds of specialist research groups undertaking pioneering, multi-disciplinary teaching and research of worldwide significance. The University is one of the country’s major research institutions, rated fifth in the UK in terms of ‘research power’ (REF 2014), and has had no fewer than 25 Nobel laureates either work or study there. The University had an annual income of £1 billion in 2014/15. 

The British Society for Immunology www.immunology.org is the UK organisation representing scientists and clinicians who study the immune system. Our aim is to promote excellence in immunological research, scholarship and clinical practice in order to improve human and animal health. 

#BritainBreathing is supported as part of the European City of Science citizen science programme and will feature as part of the Science in the City festival in Manchester this summer (22-29 July).

Funding to develop the #BritainBreathing app was provided jointly by the British Society for Immunology, The University of Manchester Faculty of Life Sciences, BBSRC Activating Impact award and the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund. Funding for the initial app workshops was provided by a grant awarded to the Health eResearch Centre by the Medical Research Council.