Pollen facts

Hay fever: an old acquaintance


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For many people, hay fever is an old acquaintance who returns every year. 20 percent of all Germans are affected by this allergy and react with sneezing, allergic skin reactions, rashes, streaming or itchy eyes - to name just a few of the numerous symptoms.

As soon as the pollen is in the air and it successfully gets to the mucous membrane, the allergy sufferer's immune system sounds the alarm. Physicians also describe this as an immune-system hypersensitivity to the pollen protein. Among some individuals, this can also extend to an allergic asthma (allergic rhinitis). The aggressiveness of the pollen varies from country to country and it also varies dependent on the time of year and geographical location.

Treatment methods

Nowadays, there are various, effective treatment methods for hay fever. In the following, you will find out more about three known and productive measures.


The most well-known are nasal sprays with corticosteroids (anti-inflammatories) for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. They alleviate complaints such as those typical of hay fever: itching, sneezing, runny nose and streaming eyes. Some nasal sprays containing corticosteroids are available from pharmacies without a prescription, stronger medications require a prescription. In order to achieve long-term effects, the sprays should be used regularly. It can however, take up to two weeks for the medication to take full effect.


Another means to combat hay fever is antihistamines, which are available in both a nasal spray or tablet form, and can also be used in addition to a corticosteroid nasal spray. Antihistamines are anti-allergic active substances that block the body's own histamine substance. If an allergy sufferer comes into contact with an allergen, the body normally distributes histamines, subsequently leading to an allergic reaction. Antihistamines can prevent this by preventing the histamines from "docking" on the histamine receptors, thus stopping the allergic reaction.


A third option for treatment is hyposensitisation: the aim when doing this is to "familiarise" the immune system with the substances triggering the allergy - it should therefore become less sensitive, thus the allergic reaction is weaker. This form of therapy is therefore also known as desensitisation. The allergenic extracts can be sprayed or consumed in tablet or drop form. The disadvantage to hyposensitisation: it must be regularly repeated and takes a relatively long time to have an effect.

Hay fever fact check

Meanwhile, the pollen allergy has become a genuine widespread disease. Regularly at the start of the year, at the latest in spring, when the complaints begin among many allergy sufferers, old and new rumours and half-truths are circulated about hay fever. In doing so, alongside actual facts, there are also claims in circulation that are not true. We have collated six theories for you and take a look at them in the fact check.

1. The rural pollen concentration is different to the urban concentration.

Correct. In the countryside, you should ventilate your home in the evening as the plants release their pollen in the morning and it ascends during the course of the day into the higher layers of air. The pollen then normally gets to the urban areas in the evening hours and settles there. It is for that reason, that it is recommended you ventilate your home in the earlier hours in urban areas.

2. Climate change extends the pollen load regionally and intensifies it.

Correct. The increase in temperature leads to an increased pollen count. As a result of worldwide global warming there are more and sometimes completely new plants growing in some regions that were previously not native. Thus, climate change is providing for an additional and increased pollen load.

3. Hay fever is harmless and need not be treated.

Incorrect. According to WHO (World Health Organization), around 50 percent of all pollen allergy sufferers who do not seek treatment, fall ill to bronchial asthma. These individuals then not only suffer the symptoms during the high pollen count period, but throughout the entire year.

4. Hay fever can disappear spontaneously.

Correct. Although people with allergic symptoms should always initially seek medical advice (see point 3), it is possible that the severity of the hay fever decreases, which could result in the hay fever disappearing altogether. To date, it has not been possible to establish to whom or why this occurs.

5. In winter there is no pollen.

No longer correct. Dependent on the geographical location, over the last few years, the duration of winter and the climate have changed. Blame here also lies with climate change. It leads to a longer high pollen count period, which is simultaneously beginning earlier. In the meantime, the first hazel tree pollen is already airborne in the run-up to Christmas.

6. The allergy is hereditary.

This is unfortunately often the case. If a parent suffers from hay fever, the chances that a child will also suffer with it lies at about 25 percent. If the both the mother and father suffer with hay fever, the risk the child will have it increases to 60 percent.

Four simple tips to reduce the extent of complaints

1. For those who have both the time and the money, they should take an annual holiday to a holiday destination at least 2,000 metres high or in a coastal area because there is generally a lack of pollen in these areas. Southern European cities, such as Athens, Barcelona and Valencia provide a city trip option. If you would like to sunbathe, take a trip to the Balearic Islands, East Frisian Islands or the Portuguese Atlantic coast with its beneficial ocean breeze. The mountains and nature are calling you. Those who prefer this as a trip destination should plan a trip to the Alps or the Pyrenees.

2. You should not leave clothes in your bedroom that you have worn out on the street and generally try to keep the window shut to keep the living areas as free from pollen as possible.

3. Before going to bed, you should wash your hair.

4. Applicable to all vehicle drivers: protection against pollen should not only take place within your own four walls, but you should also be cautious in your vehicle: those who regularly clean their pollen filter and air conditioning evaporator, and if required, change it, are doing their health the world of good.