It’s the time of year when the pollen starts to fall and eyes start to itch. If you have never suffered from hay fever before that may change when you move abroad. Various types of pollen are more prevalent in different areas and can affect people differently.
There are around 15 million hay fever sufferers in the UK – most are allergic to grass pollen but about 4 million are affected by tree pollen. Due to the mild winter in much of Europe, trees are pollinating early this year, meaning millions of sufferers are feeling the effects now.
In the South and Midwest USA pollen counts have reached record highs and sufferers are feeling the effects. Knoxville, Tennessee is seen by scientists to be the worst place affected by hay fever, based on pollen counts and sales of hay fever medication.
If you move region or country you can find your symptoms increase or become less noticeable. This is because different types of pollens affect different people. For instance, in the Tokyo area many people are allergic to the Japanese Cedar which pollinates from late February to early April. Moving to a new country could be a blessing, or a curse.
Hay fever symptoms
The symptoms of hay fever are commonly:
- Itchy, red or swollen eyes
- Itchy, running or blocked nose
- Tightness in the chest/throat
Treatment for hay fever
Hay fever is generally treated in one of two ways. If just one particular area is affected, such as the eyes, treatment can be local. The use of eye-drops for itchy eyes or nasal sprays containing antihistamines for when the nose is affected is a quick way to treat mild symptoms.
For a range of symptoms that affect different areas an oral antihistamine is recommended. Antihistamines such as acrivastine, cetirizine, loratadine or chlorphenamine can be taken in a tablet or syrup.
Make sure if you’re travelling abroad you know the generic name of the antihistamine you usually take. This will make it easier to ask for in the pharmacy, if in doubt try to take a good supply of the drug that works best for you.
Hay fever abroad
France – The West Coast is better for hay fever sufferers as the pollen count is generally low. Inland areas, especially the south, have a lot of vegetation and pollen counts can be very high.
Spain – Andalucia and central regions have high olive pollen counts. Grass pollen decreases in mid July in Northern Spain and the Costa Brava. Usually coastal areas have lower pollen counts.
Italy – Avoid Naples during hay fever season as the pollen count is high in May and June. The best places for hay fever sufferers are the Northern Lakes and the West Coast.
Generally areas by the sea have lower pollen counts than those inland. With dry, arid countries, lacking in vegetation, the pollen count is very low and sufferers may see their symptoms disappear completely.
For more information on keeping your family healthy abroad visit ExpatFamilyHealth.com for advice on vaccinations, allergies and nutrition abroad.