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Pollen season in Denmark: What allergy sufferers need to know

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Pollen season in Denmark: What allergy sufferers need to know
Denmark's pollen season can be a tough one for allergy sufferers. Photo by Ulrike R. Donohue on Unsplash

The arrival of spring in Denmark is welcomed by most but it also means the beginning of pollen season. Here are several tips to help you get through unscathed.

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Pollen allergies are common in Denmark, with spring the most potent season for sufferers.

Windy conditions which spread pollen dust from plants are the primary cause of allergic reactions in humans. Wind-pollinating plants produce large amounts of pollen due to the uncertain nature of this type of pollination – increasing the risk of human exposure to the pollen.

Denmark’s pollen season can stretch from mid-February until late August, but really gains momentum with the arrival of spring in April. Its strength at any given time is affected by wind and other weather conditions.

The six largest pollen-producing plants and trees in the Scandinavian country are alder, hazel, elm, birch, grass and gorse, according to the national meteorological agency DMI.

The proportion of the Danish population that suffers from pollen allergies appears to be increasing. A 2000 survey by the University of Southern Denmark’s National Institute of Public Health (Statens Institut for Folkesundhed) found that 12.5 percent had experienced hayfever within the preceding year.

That compared to just 6.5 percent in 1987 and 10.3 percent in 1994.

In 2017, organisation Astma-Allergi Danmark said that over a million people in the country suffer with hayfever. An interactive map released the same year shows the distribution of the allergy across the country.

Men and women are approximately equally likely to be affected.

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Plan ahead

There are good resources in Denmark for checking pollen forecasts, starting with DMI, which publishes pollen data daily during the pollen season via the Astma-Allergi Danmark website.

The daily pollen figures show which pollen types are in season as well as the number of pollen measured per cubic metre at 15 metres above the ground. These numbers are given a rating ranging from low to high.

You can also select from a long list of Danish cities in a drop-down menu, meaning you are almost certain to find up-to-date pollen counts from a location very local to you.

The website pollentjek.dk, which is operated by pharma company ALK, provides detailed information about the Danish pollen calendar, showing the main and shoulder pollen seasons for each of the six types listed above, as well as for grass.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about ticks in Denmark and how to avoid them

Medicines

There are a variety of non-prescription allergy medicines that you can buy over the counter in Denmark. These can come in the form of allergy tablets, eye drops and nasal sprays to relieve symptoms.

Although remedies can be bought at pharmacies, Astma-Allergi Danmark states “you should figure out with your doctor the treatment that helps with your individual symptoms and which gives you the fewest side effects”.

Some types of anti-allergy allergy tablets, eye drops and nasal sprays are only available on prescription.

It is also possible to be prescribed a corticosteroid injection, which acts against the symptoms of allergies; or an allergy injection, which acts against the causes of allergy rather than the symptoms. This lengthy process involves giving tiny doses of the allergens you are allergic to. Eventually, the body gets used to the allergen and stops reacting to it.

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Over-the-counter medications are recommended for mild and moderate symptoms. If your symptoms are long-lasting or particularly severe, you should contact your GP, or alternatively, an ear, nose and throat specialist – with whom you can book an appointment without needing a GP’s referral.

READ ALSO: How does Denmark's "danmark" private health insurance work?

Once you've made an appointment, the doctor will ask about your medical history. If you already know you have a pollen allergy and which allergen you are allergic to, you should let the doctor know.

If the symptoms are new, the doctor may schedule some allergy tests to identify the allergen.

The doctor will likely perform a blood and "prick" test. This is when you are pricked with a small concentration of suspected allergens.

Even if you have previously been diagnosed with an allergy, the doctor may decide to run tests anyway.

Doctors will generally prescribe the medicine they think best relieves your symptoms.

Other tips

During pollen season, don't hang any laundry outside as this could lead to your clothes, bedding and towels being covered in allergens.

A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter may also be a wise investment as these are designed to catch pollen and other particles.

You will also need to make sure that pets are groomed regularly, as they typically catch pollen in their fur and could spread pollen all over your home.

Simple acts like shutting vents when the pollen level is high and keeping your bedroom door closed during the day to minimise the spread of pollen from the rest of the house are also worthwhile.

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