Met Office comes to the rescue as hayfever sufferers wilt in heat

Britain's millions of hayfever sufferers have a new helping hand: the Met Office has introduced daily pollen forecasts on its website.

Click here to upload graphic: The Pollen Calendar (156k)

The updates arrived just as the pollen season gets properly under way, with tree pollen reaching a peak about now, to be followed by grass pollen in midsummer and pollen from smaller flowering plants after that.

Over the past week, the unusually hot weather experienced across much of the country – it looks like being the warmest April on record – has meant many people who are pollen-sensitive have had an early experience of hay fever's running noses and streaming eyes.

Some have such strong allergic reactions that they are confined to their homes, and it is thought that four million working days are lost to hay fever every year, with between 15 and 20 per cent of the population affected.

The new service, which covers the whole of the UK, represents a step change in the resources available to sufferers. At present, it is updated at noon every day, but it is hoped that the update can be made earlier in the day to give sufferers more time to plan their days.

It gives pollen forecasts for each of the Met Office's 16 regions, which are available as two-day, three-day and five-day forecasts, updated daily, and a monthly forecast, updated every week.

Yesterday's forecast, for example, showed a medium risk over Southern England, a low risk over the Midlands and the North, a medium risk again over the Scottish Highlands, and a high risk over Argyllshire. There is also a "very high risk" category.

The Met Office is taking over and enhancing a facility which was formerly provided by Pollen UK, a part of the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit at the University of Worcester.

Its new forecast combines weather data with pollen monitoring from across the country, and is being run by a full-time UK Pollen Network manager, Yolanda Clewlow.

"Variable weather conditions across the country mean that levels of pollen often vary greatly from day to day, so it's important the hay fever sufferers stay up to date with the latest forecast," Ms Clewlow said. "You may need to take medication in advance of high-count days."

Published on the website in line with the forecasts is an inventive and fascinating pollen calendar, reproduced above, which illustrates how different types of pollen which can generate hay fever and other allergies are released throughout the year.

The pollen season is normally March to August, though it can start as early as January and end as late as November, and separates into three main sections: tree pollen from late March to mid-May, grass pollen from mid-May to July, and weed pollen from the end of June to September.

Specifically, the pollen calendar shows that the alder is the first tree to shed its pollen, beginning in January, followed by hazels and yews, with elms and willows following in February. Other trees follow in March, and by April, tree pollen is at its height. Grasses begin in May and go through to September.

The most significant tree pollen is from the birch (shed from March to June), to which 20 per cent of sufferers are allergic, Ms Clewlow said. But 95 per cent of sufferers are allergic to grass pollen.

In the series of warm summers that lasted until 2007, there was a steadily rising incidence of hay fever among Britons, which experts blamed on climate change. Pollen seasons were seen to be lengthening, and the pollen itself was provoking a more powerful reaction.

Recent summers have been wetter and cooler, but that may be about to change: the current month is in line to beat April 2007 as the hottest April in the Central England Temperature record, which goes back to 1659.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor