22nd May 2017 – Does grass pollen trigger your hayfever symptoms? If so, you might want to stay clear of the North West of England, Wales and Western Scotland this summer. Scientists say these areas have a particularly high density of grass coverage.
The findings come in a set of highly detailed maps of the UK which show the location of the principal plants and trees known to produce pollen that triggers allergies and asthma.
The plant maps, drawn up by a team at the University of Exeter's Medical School, have been produced to warn people about which hayfever 'hotspots' they should avoid.
The maps, produced in collaboration with the Met Office, plot incidences of grasses and weeds including nettles, mugwort and plantain. They also feature trees such as birch, alder, hazel, plane trees and oak, all of which are known to trigger hayfever and asthma.
Photo credit: Image Crown Copyright, 2016, The Met Office. Based on digital spatial data licensed from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, copyright NERC (CEH).
Around 80% of people in the UK who have asthma also have a pollen allergy. An estimated 1 in 10 people in the UK have asthma – one of the highest rates worldwide.
In 2001, 13% of the UK population were diagnosed with hayfever.
Most people with hayfever are allergic to grass pollen, which is most common in late spring and early summer. East Anglia and the East Midlands are among the areas to head for, the maps show.
A detailed map of London has been produced to help doctors further their understanding of the impact of air pollution on asthma.
Publication of the maps coincides with new research by a team from Exeter's Medical School which shows that exposure to pollen can increase hospital admissions for asthma within days of exposure.
The study, published in the International Journal of Biometeorology, reveals a spike in hospital admissions for asthma 4 to 5 days after grass pollen counts increase. Also, admissions go up 2 to 5 days after the Met Office issues 'very high' pollen alerts.
The scientists say they couldn't prove a link between tree pollen and hospital admissions but that the shorter tree pollen seasons might mean there was less information to go on.
Allergy UK says allergy and asthma rates have been on the rise over the last 20 years and lead to 50,000 hospital admissions each year and 1,200 deaths.
Commenting on the maps in a statement, Amena Warner, the charity's head of clinical services, says of the new pollen maps: "This may lead to improved alert systems to inform us of 'higher rise' days, when more of a certain type of pollen is in the air, so that people who know they are allergic to that type of pollen (i.e. grass, birch tree or mugwort weed) can take preventative measures to reduce asthma exacerbations and potentially avoid a hospital admission, where that pollen is their allergic trigger."
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