Wondering why you can’t stop sneezing at the moment? Here’s why the 2022 hay fever season is hitting harder than usual.
Hay fever season is well and truly upon us. Whether you’re dealing with watery eyes, endless sneezing, an itchy throat or a combination of all three, this time of year can be challenging for those of us whose bodies don’t get along with pollen.
However, there’s something about this year that feels different. Through various conversations with friends and colleagues, I’ve learned that many of my fellow hay fever sufferers are really going through it this season – and that’s a sentiment being shared on social media, too.
“Awoken by coughing fit caused by #HayFever,” began one tweet on the subject. “Everyone I talked to yesterday was suffering the worst they’d ever had, and it’s a thing on Twitter. Why is it so bad this year for so many people?”
“I’ve had hay fever for at least 20 years and I’ve never had it this bad,” added another. “Are the plants mad at us this year? #HayFever”
With so many people reporting worse symptoms than usual, it’s clear that we’re not just imagining things are getting worse. So why is hay fever so bad this year? And is there anything we can do to fight back against the onslaught of symptoms? Stylist spoke to the adult allergy specialist Professor Stephen Till to get some insight.
Is hay fever really worse this year?
While Professor Till can’t speak for every hay fever sufferer, he has seen a rise in the number of people coming to him for help with their allergies.
“There’s no real-time data from large numbers of people that allows you to compare year-to-year, but based on my experience, I’ve definitely had more patients trying to make appointments for their hay fever this year than in previous years,” he says.
“That mirrors the experiences of my colleagues too, so I would agree that hay fever does seem to be causing more problems this year than in recent years.”
Why is hay fever so bad this year?
Experts aren’t 100% sure why so many people are suffering with their hay fever this year, but it’s widely believed to be down to the weather we’ve been having.
“When you get periods of hot, dry weather like we’ve had recently, it does increase pollen counts,” Professor Till explains. “We’ve had very little rain and lots of sunshine and that does seem to induce higher pollen levels.”
The weather conditions leading up to summer could also have played a factor – leading to a situation the Met Office previously referred to as a “pollen bomb”.
Indeed, as Yolanda Clewlow, the Met Office’s relationship manager for health and air quality, explained on a recent episode of the Weather Snap podcast: “In terms of the numbers of pollen grains in the air, what we’re seeing isn’t especially noteworthy compared to what we’ve had in previous years.”
Clewlow continued: “However, the potency of these pollen grains could be more intense this year, and that comes down to the weather we’ve had in spring.
“A warm and wet May coupled with a relatively warm spring means there’s a chance the pollen that has developed is particularly potent, even if the amounts aren’t dramatically different.”
This surge in pollen levels due to the weather is one reason why some climate and allergy experts say that climate change will make hay fever symptoms worse.
In fact, research published in March this year found that warmer temperatures could cause the spring bloom to happen 40 days earlier (meaning hay fever season will become longer) and cause some plants to release more pollen overall.
Is there any way to tackle worsening hay fever symptoms?
While higher pollen levels will inevitably lead to more disruptive hay fever symptoms for those who suffer, there are steps that can be taken to remedy this impact.
Alongside staying indoors during the evening – when pollen levels tend to be highest – Professor Till recommends using a steroid nasal spray.
“Probably the single most important treatment for hay fever is a steroid nasal spray,” he explains. “While they work better if you start using them a couple of weeks before pollen season, you can still start using it mid-season, too. Make sure to use it continuously – even on days when you don’t have any symptoms.”
Professor Till also recommends stocking up on common hay fever remedies such as antihistamines and allergy eyedrops, as well as thinking forward to how you’re going to treat your hay fever next season, too.
“The problem is that people only really start thinking about hay fever when they’ve got symptoms, but you need to be thinking about it ahead of summer,” he says.
“There are some really good desensitisation products that are MHRA approved, and getting your steroid nasal spray ready will help you stay ahead.”
For more information and advice on dealing with hay fever, you can visit the NHS website.