Google Searches for Skin Conditions Increase During Wildfires
By Dermsquared Editorial Team | May 25, 2022
Wildfire air pollution in San Francisco was associated with increased public interest in specific skin symptoms and diseases, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Investigative Dermatology, held from May 18 to 21 in Portland, Oregon.
Noting that wildfire smoke has been shown to exacerbate atopic dermatitis and itch for patients at one tertiary care medical center, Raj Fadadu, a medical student at the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues examined the effects of wildfire air pollution on the skin based on trends in online searches. Daily environmental data, including fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 ) concentration and smoke plume density score, were obtained for San Francisco during the wildfire season from June through November 2020 and were compared to the same months in 2016. Search data for common skin symptoms and conditions were collected from Google Trends, which provides a daily Search Volume Index (SVI) ranging from 0 to 100 for each term.
The researchers found that a 10-µg/m 3 increase in mean weekly PM 2.5 was associated with an increased mean weekly SVI for eczema, acne, itchy, itchy skin, and red skin. In models for psoriasis, there were no statistically significant results observed.
"These results can inform skin health counseling and education that clinicians and public health practitioners provide during wildfires as well as suggest avenues for further study," the authors write.