Get ready for spring - hay fever worse in spring than summer

December 21, 2011, BioMed Central

Hay fever (runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes) is caused by an allergy to pollen, and most commonly to grass pollen. These tiny grains bring misery to sufferers through spring and summer and pollen levels are often included as part of weather reports to help sufferers prepare. However new research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Clinical and Translational Allergy shows that, regardless of medication and other allergies, for the same grass pollen levels, hay fever symptoms are worse in the first half of the season than later on.

Worldwide there are over 10,000 species of grass and most of these species are able to cause symptoms in people who have hay fever. The different species release their pollen sequentially so that, for a sufferer, hay fever, also called seasonal , can last for the whole three months that grasses are flowering.

Researchers from Netherlands compared daily pollen counts with daily symptoms reported by hay fever sufferers (with a positive to grass pollen) living around Leiden. The people involved in the study were also tested for other common allergies including birch pollen (birch releases its pollen just before the start of the grass pollen season), house , dogs and cats. The study covered the consecutive hay fever seasons of 2007 and 2008.

Symptoms of hay fever definitely matched the concentration of pollen in the air and also the amount of medication taken. Higher medication use was seen during days with high pollen counts and severe symptoms, while less medication was taken on days with low and milder symptom severity.

Surprisingly the symptom scores at the beginning of the season were higher than scores at the end of the season for a similar pollen count. This could not be accounted for by medication taken such as antihistamines, nor by the long term use of nasal steroids. The birch pollen season precedes grass pollen and over half of the sufferers were also allergic to birch. However the results showed that having both allergies also could not explain the differences between symptom scores in the beginning and the end of the season.

Dr Letty de Weger, from Leiden University Medical Centre, who led the research explained, "It is possible that sufferers report their symptoms as milder later in the season because they get used to their , or that the pollen from late flowering species is less allergenic than pollen from early flowering grass. However there has been other work which suggests that high exposure to grass pollen early in the season may down regulate inflammation on subsequent contact possibly via the production of allergen specific regulatory T cells."

Explore further: Children's hay fever relieved by cellulose power without adverse effects

More information: Accurate Difference in symptom severity between early and late grass pollen season in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis Letty A de Weger, Thijs Beerthuizen, Jeannette M Gast-Strookman, Dirk T van der Plas, Ingrid Terreehorst, Pieter S Hiemstra and Jacob K Sont. Clinical and Translational Allergy (in press)

Related Stories

Children's hay fever relieved by cellulose power without adverse effects

June 28, 2011
A cellulose powder has been used increasingly for many years against allergic rhinitis. Still, there has been a shortage of scientific evidence for its efficacy in seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever), particularly in children. ...

Probiotic drinks help against allergies

June 16, 2011
Probiotic drinks such as Yakult and Vivit can alleviate the symptoms of pollen allergies, says Wageningen UR PhD scholar Yvonne Vissers. They do this by diminishing the amounts of certain proteins that cause hay fever. The ...

Recommended for you

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

Fresh approach to tuberculosis vaccine offers better protection

January 17, 2018
A unique platform that resulted in a promising HIV vaccine has also led to a new, highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis that is moving toward testing in humans.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.