Hayfever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction to pollen and can be triggered at different times of year depending on the life cycle of certain plants that release pollen in to the air.
The UK has the largest number of hayfever sufferers in Europe alongside Sweden and the number has been increasing over the past few years, with adults in mid life having the most bouts. While there is no clear answer to this increase, many scientists argue that spending time indoors as children could be to blame. Immune systems are no longer developing properly as a result of less exposure to endotoxins from a young age.
It is known that plants that cause hayfever are generally wind pollinated, releasing billions of lightweight pollen spores in to the air. Many plants have evolved to send their pollen (a powder like substance produce by the male parts of a plant) to travel far and wide. The most common culprits for causing suffering are
Tree Pollen - spring (Alder, Hazel, Yew, Elm, Willow, Poplar, Ash and Birch)
Grass pollen - late spring and summer (many species, causing the most allergic reactions)
Ragweed pollen - autumn (a group of annual weeds belonging to the daisy family)
Because the release of pollen is closely related to seasons which are influenced by weather patterns, the Met Office produce a pollen forecast each day. According to them, the most severe pollen season in a decade was 2018, when a cold and wet start to the year delayed the onset of spring. This led to a sudden explosion of growth and blossom all at once, where there would normally be a gradual blooming. The sunniest May on record and consistently warm temperatures then helped release huge amounts of grass pollen into the air. For more information, visit metoffice.gov.uk.
Where you live makes a difference too. In the north of the UK hayfever season is shorter, where there is generally less pollen. Urban areas have lower counts than the countryside and the coast has ‘cleaner’ air than inland.
How to reduce hayfever symptoms
- Plant species in your garden that are insect pollinated, rather than wind pollinated\
- Plant female only species that do not produce pollen
- Mow the lawn regularly to prevent the grass producing pollen
- Mow in the evening when pollen counts are generally lower
- Avoid drying laundry outdoors, particularly clothes and bedding, when pollen counts are high
- Wash pets before they come indoors
- Check the pollen forecast each day and limit the time spent outdoors when pollen counts are high
- Keep doors and windows closed during peak months
- Change clothes immediately after being outside