What’s the outlook for hay fever sufferers this year?

As much of the UK continues to see mild spring weather this week, the thoughts of some near-10million people in the country will be starting to turn towards the dreaded symptoms of hay fever.

After a mild week for most, with temperatures in the teens for much of the country, the Met Office’s pollen forecast is once again available for all to use. It can be found online and in the app and provides a pollen forecast five days ahead across the whole of the UK.

There are around 30 different types of pollen that can cause hay fever, and people can be allergic to more than one type.

A calendar showing the normal pollen season, showing different tree types releasing pollen through spring, grass through the summer and weed pollen later in the year.
A calendar showing the ‘normal’ pollen season.

Unfortunately for around one-in-five hay fever sufferers in the UK, the pollen season could start earlier than normal this year thanks, in part, to the recent mild weather many of us have seen. However, grass pollen, which most hay fever sufferers have an allergy to, won’t be starting until later in the year.

The Met Office’s Yolanda Clewlow, Relationship Manager for Health and Air Quality Services, said: “The birch pollen season is expected to start earlier than normal this year, with central and southern areas of the UK starting to feel its influence later on this month.

“In addition, the relatively mild winter we saw also opens the possibility of an earlier-than-average oak pollen season – possibly mid-April – and also an earlier grass pollen season, although that will depend on the conditions for the rest of spring.”

According to mean temperature figures, the UK had its eighth mildest winter on record in a series that dates back to 1884, and this has given nature a bit of a head start in front of average pollen seasons.

Yolanda continued: “People normally get hay fever symptoms when the pollen count, which is a measure of the number of grains of pollen in one cubic metre of air, exceeds 50 and it’s the tree pollen that we’ll be looking at most closely in the coming weeks.

“It’s too early to say how much pollen will be released this year, but the pollen forecast provides a good indication of the next five-day period and we’ll know more about the types and amount of pollen likely to be released as we move through spring.”

Grass pollen is the most common cause of allergies, affecting 95% of hay fever sufferers with much fewer people affected by tree, weed and other pollen species.

Most hay fever sufferers are allergic to grass pollen, although you can be allergic to more than one type of pollen.

With mild conditions expected to be largely dominant through the weekend, keep an eye on the pollen forecast for your area on the Met Office website or on the app.

Check out the advice for dealing with hay fever on the Met Office website.

Find out how different types of weather affect the production, distribution and dispersion of pollen.

Find out more about pollen allergies and hayfever.

For information on protecting yourself from ultraviolet radiation from the sun, check out the UV forecast from the Met Office.

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