The amount of birch pollen in the atmosphere rises significantly during early spring, causing many people to suffer flu or hay fever-like symptoms. Every year it catches thousands of new arrivals to these shores by surprise – some of whom have never had an allergy problem before.
According to Janne Sommer, a biologist who is the head of pollen monitoring at Astma-Allergi Danmark, one million people in Denmark will suffer from a birch pollen allergy over the coming three or four weeks – just under 20 percent of the population.
“The birch pollen season is short but very intensive, and the beginning of May will be the worst for sufferers,” she said.
Symptoms – which include a runny nose, coughing, puffy eyes and itchiness of the mouth, throat and ears – can even occur when there are no trees nearby because the pollen travels long distances in the air. Asthma-sufferers are the worst hit when the birch pollen count is high, experiencing increased breathing problems like wheezing and a shortness of breath.
Copenhagen is set for high pollen counts for the remainder of April and early May, with the birch pollen count predicted to reach an average of 600 particles per cubic metre. That’s extremely high considering 50 particles per cubic metre is a bad day for grass allergy sufferers.
“As long as the sun is shining and there is a light wind, there will be a lot of birch pollen in the air. But if we have a lot of rain and cold weather, the plants will not release the pollen,” said Sommer.
She recommends several ways of lessening the symptoms from taking medicine and drying your clothes in the dryer, to washing your hair before bedtime to avoid getting pollen in your bed and wearing sunglasses.
“If you have pets, like a dog or a cat, they can carry pollen in their fur, which might also trigger your allergy if you are particularly sensitive,” she said.