Hay fever map acts as guide for suf­fer­ers

Lo­ca­tion of key plants and trees that can trig­ger asthma are pin­pointed

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - NEWS - ROD MINCHIN

Suf­fer­ers could have re­lief from runny noses, sneez­ing and itchy eyes as sci­en­tists have de­vel­oped the first ever hay fever map of Bri­tain.

The new, highly-de­tailed maps of the UK con­tain the lo­ca­tion of key plants and trees known to pro­duce pollen that trig­gers al­ler­gies and asthma.

The maps, pro­duced at Ex­eter Univer­sity in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Met Of­fice, may help acute hay fever or asthma suf­fer­ers de­cide where to live or which ar­eas to avoid at peak times when pollen is re­leased.

The study records ar­eas where plants which hay fever suf­fer­ers are most likely to be sen­si­tive to are most preva­lent, in­clud­ing grasses and trees and plants such as birch, alder, oak and net­tle.

The plant maps, which in­clude cities through­out the UK, with a de­tailed plan of Lon­don, will help medics fur­ther study the im­pact of air pol­lu­tion on asthma.

Around 80% of peo­ple with asthma also have a pollen al­lergy and in the UK around 10% of the adult pop­u­la­tion is af­fected by asthma.

In 2001, 13% of peo­ple in the UK were di­ag­nosed with hay fever and most peo­ple with the con­di­tion are al­ler­gic to grass pollen, which is most com­mon in late spring and early sum­mer.

Air pol­lu­tion, for ex­am­ple from car ex­haust fumes, is un­der­stood to ex­ac­er­bate hospi­tal ad­mis­sions for asthma caused by al­ler­gies.

The maps have been pub­lished as new re­search car­ried out at the univer­sity shows ex­po­sure to pollen can in­crease hospi­tal ad­mis­sions for asthma within days of ex­po­sure.

The sci­en­tists be­lieve their maps of al­ler­genic pollen-pro­duc­ing plants, in com­bi­na­tion with pollen fore­casts and cal­en­dars, could help suf­fer­ers man­age their con­di­tion by re­duc­ing their ex­po­sure.

The maps show a higher per­cent­age of al­ler­genic grass in the north­ern and western re­gions of Bri­tain, whereas the eastern cen­tral area has the low­est.

Dr Nicholas Os­borne, an epi­demi­ol­o­gist and tox­i­col­o­gist, said the maps would help doc­tors nar­row down which pol­lens are most likely to trig­ger asthma at­tacks.

“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,” he said.

Dr Rachel McInnes, from the Met Of­fice, added: “These maps are a step to­wards a species-level pollen fore­cast.”

Most peo­ple with the con­di­tion, which af­fects 13% of the pop­u­la­tion, are al­ler­gic to grass pollen.

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