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Why does hay fever feel so bad this year, and when does grass pollen season end?

Britons with lung conditions have been urged to be “extra cautious” this week amid soaring temperatures and rising pollen levels.

On Monday, the Met Office labelled every county as being at “very high” risk with the exception of two regions in northern Scotland. Levels are due to remain elevated until the end of the week, according to the forecaster.

The Met Office’s pollen forecast says: “Grass pollen will rise in warm, dry weather. Nettle, dock and plantain too.”

Levels have been affected by rising temperatures, as the mercury is expected to soar up to 30ºC in some parts of the country, ushering in an unseasonably mild June.

The charity Asthma + Lung UK is calling on those with underlying health conditions to take precautions. Head of health advice, Erika Radford said: “Rising pollen levels can be very problematic for people with lung conditions… making it harder for them to breathe.”

Why does hay fever feel so bad this year?

Warmer weather is the biggest trigger for pollination and research has shown that, as temperatures start to rise earlier in the year, pollen seasons begin sooner, with trees such as hazel and birch blossoming prematurely.

According to the Met Office, 2024’s meteorological spring (March, April and May) was the warmest on record, seeing provisional temperatures averaging out at 9.37ºC, topping the record figure of 9.12ºC in 2017.

It is no wonder an estimated 10 million Britons afflicted by hay fever started sniffling and sneezing earlier this year.

Last month, meanwhile, was the hottest May since records began in 1884, while rainfall was above average for Britain.

This combination of warmer, wetter weather has led to pollen-producing plants growing more vigorously.

Climate change scientists fear warming temperatures across the globe risk lengthening hay fever seasons for the foreseeable future.

The geographical distribution of allergenic plants is also being affected by climate change.

Invasive species like ambrosia, also known as common ragweed, are being closely monitored, with a single plant able to produce a staggering billion grains of pollen in a season.

A Met Office spokesperson has recently claimed the “fine, dry weather” in June will create a surge in grass pollen.

They said: “At this time of year, periods of warm and dry weather means that grass pollen can be released quite easily and cause some impacts for those who suffer with hay fever.

“The main advice during periods with Very High pollen levels is to avoid the pollen if you can, which can include changing clothes once you come inside, avoiding drying clothes outside and driving with windows closed where possible.

“Warm and dry conditions are likely to continue into the middle of next week, before more unsettled conditions could provide some relief from the Very High pollen levels for many.”

When does grass pollen season end

Tree pollen typically occurs from late March to mid-May, affecting about a quarter of all Britons.

Grass pollen, the main allergen for people, tends to peak twice. Once, in the first two weeks of June and then, to a lesser extent, in the first two weeks of July. After that, pollen levels gradually decrease.

The timing of these peaks is of course dependent on prevailing weather conditions, with maximum temperatures of between 18ºC and 28ºC giving a higher count if it’s a dry day with low humidity and a gentle breeze.

Weed pollen season usually covers the end of June to September.

In general, the hay fever season varies depending on where you live in the UK.

In the north, the season starts later and is shorter due to lower temperatures. Urban areas usually have lower pollen counts compared to the countryside, where there is more vegetation, while in-land regions have higher counts than coastal areas.

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