Hay fever season is underway and judging by social media posts it is a lot worse this year than it has been previously.
For those of us that don't suffer from hay fever, it's difficult to see what everyone else is complaining about. However, for those of us who do, the problem is very real and it is only going to get worse.
Hay fever is is an allergic reaction to pollen and unfortunately for the one in five of us who suffer the allergy, experts are predicting very high pollen levels throughout the UK for at least the next few days.
- Why is it worse this year than in previous years?
There is a "very high" count across parts of Wales and south England, which is forecast to continue for the rest of the week, the Met Office has said.
Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said the "very high" spike in pollen has been caused by weather conditions and the beginning of the grass season.
This year we've had very wet days followed by very sunnny days, which is bad for hay fever sufferers because rain helps the grass grow well and if it's followed by dry weather there will be higher levels of pollen.
Mr Madge said: "It is a combination of factors, partly meteorological - the sort of conditions that contribute to pollen release and spread - and also the fact that we have got the grass season."
- What are the symptoms of hay fever?
There are many signs of hay fever and each person experiences different symptoms in different ways - even your pets can be allergic to pollen and their symptoms are different to ours.
Common symptoms include sneezing, runny or blocked nose, itchy eyes, mouth and throat whilst less common hay fever symptoms can include headaches and hives.
If you have asthma the symptoms can be more intense and you might also have a tight feeling in your chest and be short of breath.
Cats and dogs can be allergic to pollen too but while the cause of the allergies is the same in pets as it is in humans, the signs can be a little different.
If your pet is licking or biting their paws, excessively scratching, shaking their head or rubbing their ears or muzzle it is likely they are suffering from hay fever.
According to the International Journal of Child Health and Human Development, high pollen levels can even affect anxiety levels in people with recurrent mood disorders, such as bipolar.
- How long does hay fever last and why is it worst in summer?
Unlike the common cold which usually goes away after one to two weeks, hay fever can stick around for weeks or months and depending on the pollen forecast its intensity can vary.
For those of us who do suffer with hay fever, it can be a good idea to regularly check the pollen forecast.
Pollen season typically starts in mid-March through to September but can start as early as January and end as late as November, separating into three main sections.
Different plants release pollen at different times in the year; tree pollen is released late March to mid-May, grass pollen from mid-May to July and weed pollen from the end of June to September.
Being allergic to grass pollen is the cause of hay fever for 95% of sufferers, which is why we experience the symptoms more in the warm summer months.
Alcohol worsens the affect of pollen because much of it contains histamine, the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms in the body, and since Brits love to drink in the sun it's another reason hay fever can be worse in the summer.
- How to treat hay fever yourself
Unfortunately for 20% of the UK that suffer from it, there's currently no cure for hay fever and it can't be prevented.
There are however several things you can do to ease the symptoms and many things to avoid doing to stop them getting worse when the pollen count is high.
- Put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
- Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
- Shower and change your clothes after you've been outside to wash pollen off
- Stay indoors whenever possible
- Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
- Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
- Buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a special HEPA filter
- Cut grass or walk on grass
- Spend too much time outside
- Keep fresh flowers in the house
- Smoke or be around smoke – it makes your symptoms worse
- Dry clothes outside – they can catch pollen
- Let pets into the house if possible – they can carry pollen indoors