Hay Fever is back!

As the most common form of non-infectious rhinitis, hay fever affects 10-30% of adults and up to 40% of children. Hay fever season typically starts in mid-March as trees bloom until May. While this time of year is beautiful, it also means pollen fills the air, leading those who suffer from hay fever experience runny noses, itchy eyes, and sneezing.

When is the highest pollen count?

Day to day the pollen count can change, however it is usually highest at midday or early afternoon. Depending on the time of year the types of pollen can change.

As mentioned above pollen is typically highest between mid-March to May, this is usually pollen from trees. Grass pollen is found in largest quantities during mid-May all through until June and may be worsened by grass being cut.

Once June ends however the pollen season is still not over, weed pollen becomes prevalent from June until September. Thankfully pollen relents slightly during the winter months, with only a few species of trees releasing pollen.

Since different plants pollenate at different points in the year, you may experience hay fever symptoms at individual periods of the year. It is unlikely everyone will experience hay fever all year round and, depending on what you are allergic to, you may not even experience a reaction every year. Some species of tree only pollenate every other year, and as such those allergic to its pollen will have every other year off symptoms.

Table showing the pollen count in different plants

Table 1: A table to show which plants release pollen and when. The darker squares show higher anticipated pollen counts.

To check up to date news on the pollen levels near you, the met office has a great pollen forecast resource at the following link:

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/warnings-and-advice/seasonal-advice/pollen-forecast

How does a high pollen count affect hay fever?

  • With a high pollen count there is more pollen in the air and as such a higher chance that it will enter a hay fever sufferers’ blood stream. Once in the blood stream the body’s immune system recognises the pollen as a threat and an immune response is triggered, such as a runny nose, sneezing and eyes streaming.

What are some symptoms of Hay Fever

The main symptoms of hay fever include itchy eyes, coughing, sneezing and a blocked or runny nose. However, hay fever has also been shown to further affect those who also suffer from asthma as it is an asthma attack trigger. Studies show that of the six million Britons who endure hay fever, half of this number also have asthma.

Having an allergy to pollen causes your immune system to overreact and produce histamine, inducing the symptoms of hay fever. For those who suffer from asthma, the histamine release that they experience from hay fever makes asthma symptoms worse. As a symptom of hay fever is a blocked nose, leading to inhalation through the mouth, this can worsen respiratory symptoms of asthma. Those who have asthma who experience this can have symptoms including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. This is a result of the air you breathe through your mouth being colder than the air you breathe through your nose, which can irritate the airways of most asthmatics.

Don’t confuse your hay fever symptoms with the flu or a cold – know the differences between them.

For those who suffer from hay fever, here are some tips for surviving a high pollen count;

  • Ensure that you change your clothing after you have been outside and before you enter your bedroom.
  • Try to avoid grass areas such as parks or fields, especially during the early evening as this is peak time for pollen to be at nose level.
  • Wearing sunglasses can protect your eyes from pollen and reduce irritated and itchy eyes.
  • Avoid keeping your windows and doors open as this only lets pollen into the building.
  • Keep it clean! Pollen is known for being sticky; by washing your hair, you can make sure that no remaining pollen is clinging to your hair. This also prevents the pollen from making its way onto your pillow.

For more information about hay fever, how and why it affects those who suffer from it, have a look at our blog that gives you the lowdown of hay fever. At FluCamp, we research viruses like the common cold and the influenza virus. Our belief is that the better we understand viruses, the more likely that we will be able to understand how they work – meaning that one day, we can eradicate them. To find out more about the work that we do contact us or learn more about our trials.

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