What is pollen and pollen allergy?
Pollen is a plant’s male DNA that is transported to the female part of the flower to enable the plant to reproduce. This is obviously useful, but a lot of people get allergic reactions from the small plant parts. The immune system mistakenly identifies harmless pollen as a dangerous intruder and begins to produce chemicals to fight against the pollen.  Pollen allergy typically causes one or more of these symptoms:  Runny nose, sneezing, itching in eyes/mouth, stuffy nose (nasal congestion) or swelling around the eyes. Pollen allergies can be diagnosed by doctors and there are several good medications available. The pollen season varies from pollen type to pollen type, and hits at different times in different locations.  It’s estimated that one in four in UK has pollen allergies, in Norway the number is around 20% of the population. Among people with asthma, it is very common to also have pollen allergies.
Plants that cause pollen allergy
In general, we react to plants that are wind-pollinated, not those that are pollinated by insects. The pollen most people react to comes from trees, grasses and weeds. Some plant types have stronger allergens than others, like birch, oak and ragweed.  Common pollen types people are allergic to 

  • Grass (gramineae or poaceae)
  • Ragweed (ambrosia)
  • Mugwort (artemisia)
  • Birch (betula)
  • Alder (alnus glutinosa)
  • Hazel (alnus serrulata)
  • Willow (salix)
  • Olive (olea)
  • Cypress (Cupressus)
  • Oak (quercus)

What do the pollen levels mean?

NoneNo pollen, plant is outside flowering season.
LowLow levels of pollen.
ModerateModerate levels of pollen.
HighHigh levels of pollen.
Very highVery high levels of pollen.

How do we determine the levels?

We use the National Allergy Bureay (NAB) scale. The scale translates pollen grain concentrations to the levels above, for trees, grass and weed. Individual exposure limits will vary, some people may be more or less sensitive to different pollen types.  

Pollen calendar
Pollen is released during spring, summer and even autumn. Pollen calendars are based on historical data and give an overview of pollen season for the different species. Onset and duration of the season will typically vary from year to year, based on weather and growth conditions.  Norway – NAAF’s pollen calendar
How does pollen vary with weather?
As mentioned above, the pollen that we react to is normally spread by the wind. Pollen from trees can spread for miles with the wind, while pollen from grasses travels shorter distances. Rain will often stop the pollen from flying around and reduce pollen levels.  Thunderstorms, on the other hand, may under special conditions cause asthma attacks, known as “thunderstorm asthma”.
Air pollution makes it worse
There are strong indications that air pollution makes pollen allergies worse. Air pollution may alter the composition and viability of pollen grains, and people living in areas with poor air quality report stronger allergy reactions.
How to manage your everyday life as a pollen allergy sufferer?

  • Get diagnosed by your doctor and get advice and prescriptions for allergy medicines
  • Consider staying indoors when pollen levels are high
  • Open windows when pollen levels are lowest
  • Don’t let your clothes dry outside – they’ll catch pollen
  • Wash your hands and face when you come in from outside
  • Clean your house regularly 
  • Close windows when forecast predicts high pollen levels
  • Plant allergy-friendly plants in your garden
  • Have someone else mow the lawn…
  • And get yourself an airminer sensor and mine your own air – or follow the pollen forecasts in the Airmine app. (Appstore | Google play)

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