After what has felt like a very long winter, spring has finally sprung. Good news for most people, but an abrupt change in seasons means a bumper crop of pollen in the air and that is bad news for people who suffer from hay fever.
Doctors advise people who are allergic to take preventative medicine and to make sure they always carry anti-inflammatory asthma drugs, if needed.
Doctor Eckard Hamelmann, a pediatric allergist, explained how to protect a patient’s environment from pollen: “My advice: don’t open the windows overnight. When you come home, take a shower and wash your hair- if you have any left – and perhaps change your clothes, so that you can get the pollen out of you and create a ‘pollen free area’ at home, especially during the night.”
Allergies have been on the rise in the West over the past few decades. Increases in allergic asthma began in the 1960s, with further rises in the 80s and 90s. But developing countries have not seen this pattern.
Dr Hamelmann said: “There’s the so-called ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which says that an immune system that was not sufficiently trained during the early years, has the effect that harmless substances in the environment or food are considered as something dangerous and will cause an allergic reaction against them”.
This theory also explains the lower incidence of hay fever and eczema in children from larger families. The use of anti-bacterial products has also been associated with a higher incidence of asthma.