Expert explains why hay fever is worse in London than any other UK city and what you can do about it

Itchy eyes, itchy throat, coughing and sneezing – it’s that time of year again. Anyone with hay fever will be very aware of their pollen allergy right now, as the air is laden with fine plant powder. Londoners in particular may have noticed that the city seems to trigger their allergies a lot more than other UK cities – and you wouldn’t imagine.

Dr. Adrian Morris, p.Principe allergist at the Surrey Allergy Clinic in London and Guildford, the capital is much worse for pollen allergy sufferers due to the city’s high levels of pollution.

The allergist expert explained that the pollution in London acts to “supercharge the pollen”, causing stronger allergic reactions in those affected. He said this is more visible in the capital, “where there are a lot of parks with trees, and then the pollution from car exhaust particles, which mixes with the pollen and actually makes it more allergenic”.

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Dr Morris said this is why people have worse symptoms in London than they would have in leafy Surrey – despite rural areas having higher pollen counts. This is why you may have noticed the onset of your hay fever symptoms while walking or cycling along London’s busiest main roads, where traffic and pollution levels are high. the highest.

Dr Adrian Morris, Senior Allergist at the Surrey Allergy Clinic in London and Guildford, offered his expert advice for hay fever sufferers

Dr Morris said global warming is another exacerbating factor for hay fever. As Earth’s atmosphere warms, he explained, pollen seasons are getting longer and more prolific, and grasses are producing more pollen than they did 10 years ago. And on top of that, the doctor said, more and more people are becoming genetically prone to allergies.

He explained how, depending on your genetic makeup and exposure as a child, you could be allergic to only grass pollen, only tree pollen, or if you’re really unlucky, both. And all pollen allergies have been increasing steadily in the population for the past fifty years which, combined with the increase in pollution and the lengthening of the pollen seasons, makes “a bad mix”.

The doctor advised that the only real “cure” for hay fever is long-term immunotherapy treatment of the type they offer at the clinic, which involves exposing patients to small amounts of pollen at an increasing dose until they finally developed natural immunity. to stuff. But it’s a long and expensive process – around £100 a month for three years. So unless your hay fever is so bad that no one comes near you, Dr. Morris said, it’s best to treat the symptoms instead.

A woman running in a London park
London pollution acts to ‘supercharge’ pollen from the city’s many trees

To minimize the symptoms of hay fever, the doctor advises sufferers to anticipate their allergies. “The key is to be prepared, he said, “so rather than taking antihistamines if you need them and then struggling, start early in the season. tree, you may need to start antihistamines early, in February. If you have a grass pollen allergy, you really need to take them now.”

Describing the four main antihistamines currently available over the counter – fexofenadine, cetirizine, loratadine and acrivastine – the doctor said their relative effectiveness will vary from person to person, as will possible side effects. He said to me: “They are all very good. They are a bit like horses for the lessons where you try one, you see which one suits you best.”

Dr Morris said some patients notice an increase in appetite, and therefore weight gain, with some of the antihistamines, but not with others. And some people still report feeling sleepy after taking cetirizine – in which case he recommends trying loratadine or fexofenadine instead.

To optimize the control of your allergies, the doctor advises using a nasal spray which will add to the effect of the antihistamine by creating multiple defenses against the effects of pollen. As for natural treatments, like eating local honey or taking herbal remedies, Dr. Morris said any effects are “all anecdotal so far,” with no major studies to prove the effect. one of them works – although some people may find that they ease symptoms.

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