Why is hay fever so bad this year? Dates of UK pollen season - and pollen forecast this week

The UK is currently at the peak of its pollen season, with very high grass pollen counts recorded across the country

The summer sunshine may have finally arrived in the UK, but for hay fever sufferers this time of year can be an unpleasant time.

The hot months are often blighted by watering eyes, runny noses and headaches, and this year symptoms are proving to be even worse for many.

The UK is currently at the peak of its pollen season, so it is expected that allergy sufferers will be feeling a little under the weather.

Have your symptoms been worse this year? (Photo: Shutterstock)

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But why is hay fever particularly bad this year? Here’s what you need to know about the pollen season and how to relieve the symptoms.

Why is hay fever so bad right now?

As the weather has been predominantly wet over the last month, the rainfall has caused a significant decrease in pollen concentration in the air, meaning the effects were not as severe for hay fever sufferers.

Heavy and prolonged rainfall early on in the day helps to keep pollen counts low all day, while rain in the afternoon will have less of an effect, so symptoms may still occur.

Now that the weather has warmed up, the hotter temperature has prompted more pollen to be released.

For grass, temperatures between 18 and 28C could produce a high pollen count if the weather remains dry with low humidity, while trees respond best when the temperature is between 13 and 15C.

If temperatures climb above 28C, all pollen levels will decrease, while several warm days in a row could result in pollen supply running out altogether.

The Met Office told NationalWorld: “We are seeing high and very high grass pollen counts in many places which will be having an impact on sufferers.

Weather doesn't in itself trigger hay fever symptoms, but it can help increase the pollen count. Different weather types have different influences on the pollen count.

“We are currently in the peak grass pollen season when we will see high, or very high, counts during any dry, warm weather.

“There are other species in flower too, such as some weeds, but the majority of hay fever sufferers are allergic to grass pollen.”

While the warmer weather will affect the pollen levels in the air, other factors could also be contributing to the severity of symptoms right now, with lockdown restrictions possibly playing a part.

Dr Naveen Puri, associate clinical director at Bupa Health Clinics, told NationalWorld: “The pandemic’s restrictions have led to many of us spending much more time indoors than we would usually.

“Spending time outdoors helps you to build up some immunity to pollen, and without that exposure, any symptoms of hay fever may feel worse.

“Some of us may have tried to bring the outside in, because of this. Houseplants and flowers have been especially popular this year, but any flowering plant can release airborne allergens through the pollen that they produce.”

When is hay fever season in the UK?

Different types of pollen will affect people at different times of the year, with hay fever season lasting from late March through to September.

The start of the season is influenced by where you live in the UK, with the north having a later start and a much shorter season, while urban areas will have a lower pollen count than the countryside.

The time of year will also influence which type of pollen is in the air, with tree pollen occurring first between late March and mid-May.

Grass pollen follows from mid-May to July, and weed pollen later in the year from the end of June to September.

The peaks of pollen levels are very much dependent on the weather during spring and early summer, with lower temperatures meaning less pollen is produced, while a dry spring season can also cut the amount of pollen production.

Dr Puri explained: “Grass pollen is responsible for most people’s hay fever at the moment.

“If the weather is dry and warm - between 18 and 28C - grass can produce an especially high pollen count. This is typically noticeable between May and September but tends to be at its peak between June and July.

“Along with grass, other plants releasing pollen this time of year include lime trees, mugwort, stinging nettles and dock. All have their peak pollen release around this time.

“While it will vary between species, tree pollen tends to affect people earlier in the year, typically from February through to June, but with peak months in the spring.”

What is the pollen forecast this week?

High and grass pollen counts are forecast for most parts of the UK over the coming week.

Yorkshire and the Humber, North West and North East England, the Midlands, South East England and Northern Ireland will be the worst affected areas, with each of these regions all forecast to have high and very high pollen counts this week.

Pollen levels will generally be lower across parts of Scotland and Wales, with the count varying between medium and low.

How can I relieve hay fever symptoms?

While there is currently no cure for hay fever, most people are able to relieve their symptoms with treatment, with many finding an improvement as they get older.

Dr Puri advised taking the measure to help ease hay fever symptoms:

Shut your windows. Shutting your windows and closing your curtains and blinds during hot days not only helps to keep pollen out, but also helps to keep your house cooler too. Pollen levels tend to be especially high in the evening, so if the heat is making sleeping a struggle, think about investing in a fan to reduce the temperature of your room, rather than opening your windows.

Shower and wash your clothes. Pollen can cling to your hair and clothing, but taking a quick shower and washing your clothes can help to keep the amount of pollen around you down, once you’re back inside. Make sure to dry your clothes indoors, where possible, as hanging them out to dry outdoors may cover them in pollen.

Cover your face. All hay fever sufferers know that symptoms affect their eyes and nose. Wearing wraparound sunglasses can be helpful to keep pollen away, as well as using a barrier balm, like petroleum jelly, around your nostrils to trap pollen and prevent it from entering your nose.

Over the counter medicines. There is a variety of specialised hay fever tablets, sprays and eye drops available over the counter from your local pharmacy. Speak to your pharmacist to find the right combination for you, and make sure that you’re stocked up on them for the next time the pollen count is high.

Check the forecast. Preparation is key – check the Met Office forecast to see what pollen levels are due to be like in your area so you can take the necessary precautions.”

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