Hay fever: how to avoid your symptoms using pollen maps

With the hay fever season about to start, you may be starting to think about how you’ll cope with your symptoms if you have asthma and/or an allergy to tree or plant pollen.

The best way to avoid having symptoms is to avoid pollen as much as possible. But this isn’t always easy, as there are many different types of pollen. And assuming you know which type of pollen affects you, how can you avoid places where it’s released?

Thankfully, experts at the University of Exeter’s Medical School have produced detailed maps of the UK that show where key plants and trees known to produce the pollen that triggers hay fever are found.

The maps, produced in collaboration with the Met Office, could even help some people with severe allergies to pollen decide where to live. For instance, if you’re allergic to dock or grass pollen, you may want to avoid large areas of Wales. Or if Ash or Birch pollen triggers your hay fever symptoms, you may not want to settle in London or the South.

They may also give you an idea of where you should visit if you’re planning a UK-based holiday this year. Those allergic to grass pollen may want to travel to the east of England, while anyone with an allergy to pine pollen may have fewer symptoms by visiting London.

“These maps are a step towards a species-level pollen forecast,” says Dr Rachel McInnes, honorary research fellow at the University of Exeter European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

“Pollen can have a serious impact on the wellbeing of those with hay fever and asthma. By working towards a localised, species-level forecast, vulnerable people can better plan their activities and manage their condition. While these allergenic plant and tree maps do not provide a forecast of pollen levels, they do provide the most likely locations of grass and of tree species which are the source of most allergenic pollen.”

12 types of pollen

The maps show levels in the UK for the following types of pollen:

  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Birch
  • Dock
  • Grass
  • Hazel
  • Mugwort
  • Nettle
  • Oak
  • Pine
  • Plantain
  • Willow

The maps are available to view on Flickr.

“We hope that these maps will contribute to ongoing research that aims to better determine when plants pollenate, allowing us with time to provide better warning to allergy and asthma sufferers to enable them to better manage their disease,” says Dr Nicholas Osborne, an epidemiologist and toxicologist at the University of Exeter’s Medical School. “In the future, more people will know what species they are allergic to.”

If you don’t know which type of pollen causes your symptoms, your GP may be able to refer you for a test to confirm it. It’s also a good idea to note when you get symptoms, as pollen from different plants and trees are released at different times of the year. There’s a handy pollen calendar that shows the pollen seasons and when the different types of pollens are at their peak at Asthma UK’s website.

If you can’t avoid pollen, the good news is your local Careway pharmacist has everything you need to relieve your symptoms as well as advice on how to manage them. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.