Hot weather can be a nightmare for people with hay fever. Anyone who suffers from the condition will know how challenging spring and summer can be. It is a widespread allergic reaction that is worse at certain times of year – hence its medical name of seasonal rhinitis.
It occurs mostly in spring and summer as an allergic reaction mainly to pollen from trees, grass and weeds. Also triggered by a reaction to allergens such as house dust mites or mould, it can affect people of all ages, from young children to the elderly.
Symptoms can be unpleasant and uncomfortable. They can include runny eyes, sore throat, sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, headaches, blocked sinuses and a shortness of breath in severe cases. Sufferers can feel tired and complain of mucous running down the back of their throat.
Can air conditioning help hay fever sufferers?
Experts agree an air conditioning system can help people with hay fever, even if the allergy is extreme. They suggest closing all the windows and doors in your home and using air conditioning, rather than fans, as this will help to filter out the pollen particles.
This has a positive effect on people who have symptoms of hay fever, mainly due to the reduced need to have the doors and windows open, which in turn can prevent the spread of pollen – the major cause of hay fever.
How high is pollen at the moment?
Hot, dry weather can spread pollen rapidly, especially if it’s breezy as well. As the fertilising agent of plants, pollen is so small, light and dry, and is easily spread by the wind. It is kept airborne and can be blown over long distances.
People with hay fever are likely to find their symptoms are less severe on days that are cloudy, rainy, or windless, as the pollen doesn’t move about in these conditions. It tends to be heavier and sits on the ground. The hot, dry weather causes greater pollen and mould distribution and increases allergy symptoms.
The pollen count is considered to be high when it reaches 9.7 to 12 grams of pollen per cubic metre of air. This can trigger plenty of sneezing and watering eyes for hay fever sufferers. Hay fever is usually worse between late March and September, especially when it’s warm, humid and windy. This is when the pollen count is at its highest.
The weird weather we are having, with sunny but windy days, has unfortunately been ideal weather for a high pollen count, which is being blown farther afield. According to the Met Office, the pollen count in the UK has ranged from medium to high during the recent hot August weather. Storms and heavy rain have caused a high count to drop to medium at times.
Can we avoid pollen altogether?
Unless we lived on a planet without trees and plants, which would be terrible for the climate, we can never totally escape pollen in the air outside. However, it is possible to escape it from the confines of our homes, thanks to having a good air conditioning unit.
A high quality air conditioning system will still be running effectively, even if the temperature outside hits 46ºC. It can keep your home at a comfortable, ambient temperature all year round, removing the need to leave your windows and doors open, potentially letting in pollen and other irritants.
Trees, grasses and weeds that cause most pollen are normally prevalent between May and August, so be prepared for summer by having your AC in place. You can also do other things to help alleviate hay fever symptoms. Avoid mowing your lawn at all costs and try not to hang out washing on the line on a hot day, however tempting it seems, as it can bring pollen into your home.
Keep the windows closed at least from mid-morning until early evening and switch on your air conditioning unit to keep the indoor temperature cool. With the average UK temperatures rising due to climate change, having AC in your home is becoming increasingly important.
The UK’s 10 hottest years on record, since statistics began in 1884, have occurred since 2002. The highest temperature recorded to date in the UK was is 38.7°C (100°F) at Cambridge Botanic Garden on 25th July 2019.