What Is A High Pollen Count?

High Pollen Counts

Pollen are tiny particles released from trees, flowers and grasses and are light enough to be transported in the air. Their mission is to land on other plants to fertilize them, but many never reach their target. Instead they enter our bodies, through our nose and throat - triggering hay fever in those allergic to the pollen.

A high pollen count, is when there is lots of pollen floating in the air. This tends to be seasonal, as plants only make pollen at certain times of the year. Weather reports often contain pollen alerts. Forecasts (predicting the pollen count in the days ahead) are really just informed guesswork based on the amount of pollen collected at specific sites earlier in the day, along with the time of year, the temperature and rainfall over the previous few days. At best, pollen forecasts are only as good as the weather forecast. However, a forecast can be useful in deciding when to start taking antihistamines to prevent hay fever or when to increase your asthma preventer medication.

Pollen Alert

In the U.S. the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), can send you email alerts on pollen counts.


Myths About Pollen Counts

1. Pollen count is higher in the countryside
Not true - pollen levels don't differ much between town and country. In fact, high up in an apartment block may be one of the worst places because pollen rises on warm, stuffy air.

2. All that wind at the seaside attracts pollen
Not true. Because the wind comes from off-shore (from the sea which has no pollen-excreting plants), it is usually pollen-free. Mountain peaks are also good, although mountain valleys can be pollen traps.

3. Roses are the worst for releasing pollen
Not true. The worst culprits tend to be green plants or greenish colored flowers. Colorful, scented flowers have big sticky pollen grains (because they are are designed to stick to bees and insects who carry the pollen to other plants) - they don't float around in the air, and rarely cause allergies. However strong scents can irritate your nose if you already have hay fever and make symptoms worse. See, what are the signs of hay fever?

Next: How to avoid pollen at home.

What Is Hay Fever? Medical definition.
How Is Hay fever Diagnosed? Plus, when to insist on more tests.
How Is Hay fever Treated? Treatment options.

• Got another question? See: Allergy Questions

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