It’s that time of the year again. Aaaaacccchhhhoooo! It’s the sneezing epidemic from hay-fever. The winter just gone wasn’t especially harsh but the spring didn’t really materialize and suddenly summer surprises us with long hours of sunshine. This bank holiday has been wonderful for those of us on the East coast with long, sunny days and warm temperatures. The newspapers carry prominent features on gardening and the sound of lawn mowers has almost drowned the background drone of vehicular traffic where I live. It’s very pleasant weather for the majority, but a miserable spell for pollen-allergic hay-fever sufferers. So, what’s happening?
Symptoms (what people feel):
- Blocked and runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Cough and occasional wheeze
- Itch along roof of mouth and back of throat
- Intense lethargy
Who is affected?
About 20% of the population, especially teenagers and young people. However it can erupt at any age.
What causes hay-fever?
Hay-fever is an allergic reaction to pollen (mainly) and mould spores. It is a particularly seasonal (especially mid-summer) problem but can drag on into early September. Allowing for weather variations, the pollen season begins along the warmer coasts of west Cork and Kerry in early May. A week or so later the southwestern counties release pollen and by the end of May high pollen counts can be detected countrywide (the ‘pollen count’ measures the amount of pollen in the air over 24 hours). High levels of pollen occur on warm, dry and sunny days. Low levels occur on wet, damp and cold days. Rain washes pollen out of the air. Pollen is released in the morning and carried higher into the air by midday. It descends again to ‘nose-level’ in the late afternoon. Cities and dense urban areas stay warmer longer and hold pollen. Combine this with atmospheric pollution from car fumes and you can understand why city dwellers suffer more aggressive hay-fever than their country cousins.
What can I do to help myself?
- Avoid areas of lush grassland
- Keep house and car windows closed during peak pollen hours
- Wear sunglasses
- If you can, avoid being outdoors late morning and late afternoon
- Don’t smoke and keep away from smokers (passive smoking aggravates all allergies)
- Get someone else to mow the lawn
- Choose seaside breaks for holidays as off shore breezes blow pollen away
- Download the App and check the live pollen updates in your area to help you avoid any misery