What is Pollen?

(20 May 2016)

Air samples are collected in traps set on buildings two or three storeys high. Taking samples from this height gives a better indication of the pollen in the air from both local and distant sources. Traps on the ground would only collect pollen from nearby trees and plants.

The air is sucked into the trap and the grains of pollen are collected on either sticky tape or microscope slides (glass plates). The pollen is then counted. Samples are usually taken every two hours, and the results are averaged for a 24-hour period. 

The pollen forecast is usually given as:

low: fewer than 30 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
moderate: 30-49 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
high: 50-149 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
very high:150 or more grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air

Hay fever symptoms usually begin when the pollen count is over 50. The pollen count is usually given as part of the weather forecast during the spring and summer months.

 

When is there most pollen?

Different trees and plants produce their pollen at different times of the year. Depending on which pollen you are allergic to, you may experience your hay fever symptoms at different times.

From January to April, pollens from trees are the most common cause of hay fever.
From May to August, pollens from grass are the most common cause of hay fever. 
During the autumn, hay fever may be caused by weeds such as nettles and docks, late flowering plants, and mould and fungal spores.

 

The effect of the weather

The amount of sunshine, rain or wind affects how much pollen plants release and how much the pollen is spread around. On humid and windy days, pollen spreads easily. On rainy days, pollen may be cleared from the air, causing pollen levels to fall

During their pollen season, plants release pollen early in the morning. As the day gets warmer and more flowers open, pollen levels rise. On sunny days, the pollen count is highest in the early evening.

 

 

Avoiding the pollen and spores

Pollen and spores are a problem in towns and cities as well as in the countryside. This is because they are small and light enough to be carried in the air over great distances during the course of the day. You can check the daily pollen count from June to August by going to Met Eireann website.

Most pollen is released in the morning and rises skywards with the heat of the day.

 

Indoors

Keep doors and windows closed especially mid-morning and late afternoon to early evening. These are the times when the pollen count is usually at its highest.
Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth.
Avoid drying clothes outside. But if you do, shake them before bringing them back into the house. This will get rid of any pollen and spores that might have blown onto them.
If you have been out walking or gardening, shower, wash your hair and change your clothes when you get back in to lessen the chance of carrying pollen into your house.
Splash your eyes with cold water regularly. This will help flush out any pollen and will also soothe and cool your eyes.
Keep fresh flowers out of the house.
Keep furry pets out of the house during the hay fever season.
Another important tip is to stop people from smoking in your home.

Outdoors

Try to stay indoors if there is a high pollen count.
Wear wraparound sunglasses, these will help stop pollen blowing into your eyes.
Use Prevalin® before you go out to stop pollen and spores from settling on the lining of your nose.
Try to stay out of places with lots of grass, like parks or fields.
Keep your car windows closed. Some cars can be fitted with pollen filters. Ask at your local garage for further details.
Try to avoid mowing the lawn or weeding. These activities can create clouds of pollen and spores. If you enjoy gardening, consider creating a friendly environment for yourself. Grow insect-pollinated plants like the geranium, iris and clematis. Consider replacing the lawn with attractive paving. Don't grow any new hedges and don't cut existing ones yourself. Do away with compost heap, (which produce mould spores). For further information on Low Allergy Garden download the “Gardening with Asthma and Allergies and Creating an Allergy Friendly Garden” booklet from the Asthma Society of Ireland

 

Can Hayfever be cured?

There is no cure for hayfever but there are a number of treatments available to relieve the symptoms. These include antihistamine tablets, nasal (nose) sprays and eye drops. Some can only be prescribed by a GP, but many are available over-the-counter (OTC) in pharmacies. However, in most cases symptoms can be controlled effectively with medication.

 

Hayfever and Asthma

Between 60% and 80% of people who have asthma also have Hayfever (allergic rhinitis). Both asthma and Hayfever are caused by an allergic reaction and the two conditions frequently overlap. Many of the same allergens (a substance that causes an allergic reaction.) are known to trigger asthma and Hayfever. If Hayfever is treated effectively it could reduce asthma symptoms and may even help prevent the development of asthma.