Understanding Allergies: Pollen Count Information
Understanding the pollen count
What is the pollen count?
The pollen count is the quantity of pollen that’s currently in the air. You’ll often hear it mentioned on local weather forecasts during pollen season.1
What is a pollen forecast?
A pollen forecast monitors and predicts the pollen count over the coming days, similar to a weather forecast. Both the national pollen count for the UK and local pollen counts, such as the London pollen count, are measured by Met Office weather data and the National Pollen Aerobiological Unit, to produce pollen forecasts across the country for the following 5 days. 2
The process involves placing traps on rooftops all over the country. Every day from March to September the grains are collected and counted under a microscope.2
One of the biggest challenges for allergy sufferers is knowing when to take steps to avoid pollen, so a pollen forecast is essential to plan accordingly and avoid triggering symptoms.
During pollen season, we recommend checking the pollen forecast on a daily basis for your area as well as anywhere you plan to go, in order to manage your symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life.2 You should also be mindful of the time of day you choose to be outdoors, pollen counts tend to be higher in the mornings and during the night. The forecast should help you identify what times are the best.3
What is pollen allergy?
Pollen allergy is a common allergic reaction to pollen which triggers seasonal allergies. It’s more commonly referred to as hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis.1
During the warmer months of the year, plants release tiny pollen grains to fertilise other plants of the same species. These small, light, and dry pollen grains travel on the wind, and are inhaled by humans and animals.1
Grass pollen is the most common cause of pollen allergy, however certain trees such as birch, cedar, and oak, also produce highly allergenic pollen.1
Our pollen calendar tells you which plants are active during which months throughout the year in the UK.2
How to avoid pollen allergies
Pollen allergies can be relieved by avoiding allergic triggers, including:1
- Limiting exposure to outdoor activities when pollen counts are high.
- Keeping windows closed during pollen season and using air conditioning with a certified asthma and allergy friendly filter attachment.
- Start taking allergy medications before pollen season starts.
- Changing your clothes, showering, and washing your hair before going to bed.
- Wearing sunglasses and a hat during pollen season.
- Washing bedding frequently, e.g. once a week.
- Drying clothes indoors, not on an outdoor clothesline.
How to treat pollen allergies
There are several treatments you can explore to relieve pollen allergy symptoms.
Histamine is normally released when the body detects something harmful such as an infection. However, in people with allergies, the body mistakes something harmless such as pollen, for a threat and produces histamine, which causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction.4
Antihistamines help prevent this process by blocking the effects of histamine. If taken before coming into contact with allergens they can prevent symptoms entirely, and can also reduce their severity if taken afterwards.4
They are available as tablets, capsules, creams, liquids, eye-drops, or nasal sprays, depending on which part of the body is affected.4
Decongestants work by reducing the swelling of blood vessels in the nose, which helps open the airways.5 They can be used as a short-term treatment for a blocked nose caused by an allergic reaction such as pollen allergy.
Decongestants can be taken as liquids, tablets, capsules, or nasal sprays, however, they shouldn’t be taken over long periods as they can make symptoms worse over time.5
Steroid nasal sprays
Steroids are a man-made form of hormones normally produced by the adrenal glands. Steroid nasal sprays are anti-inflammatory medicines which can be used to treat a variety of conditions including pollen allergy. They reduce inflammation when sprayed into the nose.6
Some nasal sprays are available from pharmacies and shops, while others are only available on prescription.6
Immunotherapy involves a series of injections of an allergen into the fat under the skin. This treatment generally provides long-term relief, with many people experiencing complete relief within one to three years of starting immunotherapy. The benefits can continue for several years after the injections stop.1
- Pollen Allergy. Asthma and allergy foundation of America. https://www.aafa.org/pollen-allergy/ Accessed 18/02/2022.
- Pollen Forecast. Klarify. https://uk.klarify.me/pages/pollen-forecast Accessed 18/02/2022.
- 10 ways to beat seasonal allergies. Intermountain Healthcare. https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2018/06/10-easy-ways-to-beat-seasonal-allergies-when-the-pollen-count-spikes/ Accessed 18/02/2022.
- Antihistamines. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antihistamines/ Accessed 18/02/2022.
- Allergies Treatment. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/treatment/ Accessed 18/02/2022.
- Steroid Nasal Sprays. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/steroid-nasal-sprays/ Accessed 18/02/2022.