Two days of sun? Hayfever sufferers beware

Pollen experts said the weather in the past week has created 'perfect conditions' for the first wave of early flowering trees to release pollen into the air – bringing with it the misery of hayfever

The first sounds of Spring are traditionally the call of the cuckoo and spring lambs bleating in the fields.

But this year, the sneezes and sniffles of Britain’s 12 million hayfever sufferers are also just as likely to be heard as the recent warm weather spells seasonal misery.

Pollen experts said the weather in the past week has created perfect conditions for the first wave of trees to release pollen into the air – bringing with it the curse of hayfever.

And there will be little respite for the rest of the week as the Met Office says the weather will remain largely warm and dry.

Doctors say they are already treating sufferers for symptoms which can cause runny noses, eyesight and sleep problems and, in more serious cases can trigger asthma attacks.

Beverly Adams-Groom, chief palynologist at the National Pollen and Aerobiology Unit at the Unversity of Worcester said: ‘There is a percentage of people affected by early flowering trees and that is what we are seeing now.

‘We have got hazel and particularly alder trees in flower at the moment and these do affect some people, not as many as the main spring pollen trees which kicks off usual around the beginning of April but there will be some people affected now.

‘This year’s first wave of hayfever is not particularly early, it is about average. It started about a week ago and the count would have gone particularly high with the nice weather at the weekend.

‘In London for example there are quite a few alders planted as ornamental trees along the river being the classic location. The pollen is very light and you don’t need much of it to trigger a reaction in people.

‘There is also an interaction between pollen and the pollution particles and gases which we think makes them more potent but it is a matter of ongoing research. The pollutants also increase the inflammatory response within the respiratory system – the lungs in the case of asthma suffers – and that lowers the threshold at which people respond to the pollen in the air.’

Ms Adams-Groom added: ‘We have perfect conditions at the moment for pollen release for these particular trees. They don’t need high temperatures, they just need dry weather and some breeze. The warmer and the drier it is, then the better it is for them.’

‘We don’t know the exact start date for the main pollen season as it has been a very unusual winter and we are not sure of exactly the impact but at the moment we are anticipating an average start for the birch pollen so that’s going to be around d the end of March, beginning of April, weather allowing of course.

‘People are expected to start suffering from the grass hayfever symptoms in May with the main peak in the middle of June.’

Dr Stephen Till, consultant in allergy at Guys and St Thomas’ and King’s College London said he expected to see a spike in sales of hayfever medication in chemists.

'Most people who have asthma caused by pollen would also have hayfever as well and vice versa,' he said.

'Pollen can cause asthma attacks. Grass pollen is more associated with asthma attacks than tree pollen. But if you are tree pollen allergic, your immune system can’t really tell the difference between them.

'If the hazel and alder early flowering trees are giving off pollen early, even the people with birch pollen allergy potentially could get symptoms too.

'I imagine there’s been a big spike in over the counter antihistamine and nasal sprays over the weekend as people have been suffering.'

The Met Office said the weather forecast offered little hope of weather conditions changing in the coming week although last weekend's heatwave would not be repeated with temperatures expected to be average for this time of year - around 9 degrees celsius.

The outlook for Thursday to Saturday is largely dry and settled with some sunny spells turning a little more unsettled in the northwest by Friday. Mild by day but cold nights and patchy fog.

(Original article)

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