Pollen count Scotland: What is the pollen count today? When is hay fever season?

Hay fever is usually at its peak between late March and September, but climate change is leading to pollen being produced earlier each year, according to scientists

Hay fever can be an irritating condition for people to manage throughout the spring, summer and even early autumn months. Causing a range of symptoms from runny noses to watery eyes, the condition affects more than ten million people in the UK.

Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms and why hay fever is being triggered earlier each year.

What causes hay fever and pollen allergies in the UK?

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Hay fever, also called seasonal allergic rhinitis, is caused by exposure to various types of pollen, including from grass, trees, and other plants. Pollen is a fine powdery substances made up of microscopic grains from the male part of a plant that travels through the air to germinate female plants.

Different pollen is more densely present at different times of year, as different plants pollinate differently. Here’s a look at the most common UK pollen types and which time of year they are most prevalent:

- Alder pollen, present from January to April, peaking in March

- Hazel pollen, present from January to April, peaking February to March

- Yew pollen, present from January to April, peaking in March

- Elm pollen, present from February to April, peaking in March

- Willow pollen, present from February to April, peaking in March

- Poplar pollen, present from March to May, peaking in March

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- Birch pollen, present from March to June, peaking April to May

- Ash pollen, present from March to May, peaking in April

- Plane pollen, present from March to May, peaking in May

- Oak pollen, present from March to June, peaking in May

- Oil seed rape pollen, present from March to July, peaking May to June

- Pine pollen, present from April to July, peaking in May

- Grass pollen, present from May to September, peaking June to July

- Lime pollen, present from June to July, peaking in June

- Nettle pollen, present from May to September, peaking in June

- Dock pollen, present from May to August, peaking in June

- Mugwort pollen, present from June to September, peaking July to August

The pollen season in the UK has traditionally had three distinct, but overlapping phases. These are:

- From about March until May, the blossoming of trees such as hazel and birch creates the first wave of symptoms for some pollen allergy sufferers;

- From May until July, grass pollen forms the bulk of the UK’s pollen load;

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- Weed pollen (such as dock and mugwort) starts to occur from June and can last well into the autumn.

Why is pollen so bad this year?

Unfortunately, climate change means pollen levels are likely to rise much earlier in the year than normal, meaning hay fever sufferers can expect symptoms even as early as January.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA): “Hay fever is already common during the spring and summer months, but our changing climate could see some symptoms starting earlier in the year for allergy sufferers across the UK.

"Recent studies suggest that some types of pollen and other allergens could be released earlier in the year and for longer durations as temperatures rise. For some types of pollen, this may mean levels high enough to trigger hay fever as early in the year as January or February.”

The UK is also facing a threat from changes in the geographical distribution of allergenic plants, due to climate change, with invasive species such as ambrosia (common ragweed) being on the watch list. A single ragweed plant can produce a billion grains of pollen per season and its pollen causes strong allergic reactions.

What is the pollen count today?

A pollen count monitoring network combines Met Office weather data with expertise from organisations such as the National Pollen and Aerobiological Unit. This partnership helps to produce pollen forecasts for five days ahead across the whole of the UK.

The pollen forecast will return in March and can be found on the Met Office's website here.

What are the top hay fever symptoms?

According to the NHS, symptoms of hay fever can include:

- Sneezing and coughing;

- A runny or blocked nose;

- Itchy, red or watery eyes;

- Itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears;

- Loss of smell;

- Pain around your temples and forehead or headaches;

- Earache;

- Feeling tired.

Those with asthma may also experience a tight feeling in their chest, being short of breath, or wheezing and coughing. Not everyone experiences all of these symptoms, depending on the severity of the hay fever. The symptoms can last for weeks or months, unlike the common cold which passes after a few weeks.

What can I do about my symptoms?

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The first step is to avoid exposure to the pollen that affects you the most.

Dr Nisa Aslam, a GP from Typharm’s Skin Life Sciences Foundation, said: “Allergens responsible for hay fever include grass pollens and tree pollens (spring and summer), weed pollens and fungal mould spores.

“Watch the daily pollen forecasts. Don’t go outside when the pollen count is high and keep all windows shut.”

Preventive medicines can help to reduce symptoms if someone knows in advance when they are going to be exposed to pollen.

Dr Aslam said: “This can be a steroid nasal spray one to two weeks before symptoms start.”

Alternatively, natural nasal sprays “can help to prevent the symptoms of hay fever and other types of allergic rhinitis by forming a protective film in our inner nose, stopping allergens that we breathe in from trying to enter our respiratory system”, she said.

Similarly, ointments like Vaseline can act as a pollen trap.

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