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A free and useful service for pollen allergy sufferers: the Pollen Diary!

Why is this useful and what can it offer you?

Along with the budding spring begins the allergy season. Many people suffer from hay fever every year. This disease was first declared in 1819. Though hay was considered to be the cause back then, modern research has shown that hay fever is caused by pollen entering the respiratory tract. The surface of these tiny grains are covered in many various and very specific proteins. They serve as an identification code for the reproduction of the plant. Once it hits the surface of the respiratory mucosa, the pollen discharges proteins that cause specific reactions of the immune system and this subsequently triggers allergy symptoms (runny and itchy nose and eyes, sore throat, coughing and skin sensitivity). This disease is strictly seasonal. Harmful substances can accumulate in the body for many years and the disease can be difficult to treat. Patients should see their general practitioner as soon as they feel the first symptoms coming on.

Allergy symptoms are caused by 50 types of different plants. These are typically plants that use wind pollination. Plants that produce allergenic pollen are classified into three groups: trees, grasses and weeds.

In Lithuania, trees are the first plants to bloom in spring. Their pollination process begins in March (some years in February) and continues through July. Trees produce an exceptional quantity of pollen compared to the other plant groups (1500 units/m3).

Graminoids, otherwise known as grasses, begin to flower in May, and their pollen can be found in the air up to the month of October. Timothy-grass, orchard grass, perennial rye-grass, wheat, rye and barley pollen can often be identified as the cause of allergy. There are two periods every year during which the concentration of this type of pollen exceeds the threshold of sensitisation: the first is at the beginning of June and the second (slightly lighter) in the middle of July. In the second half of the summer, the flowering period begins for nettles, sorrels, the Artemisia and the Chenopodiaceae families. Nettles produce more airborne pollen (up to 300 units/m3), however this pollen has a weaker allergenic effect.

The flowering period of plants in the Artemisia genus is much more dangerous and lasts from the end of July to the second half of August. In September, ragweed pollen also makes its way to this part of the world along with air masses from Southern Europe.

Professionals determine the variety and concentration of pollen in the air by using microscopes and applying special methods. In Lithuania, pollen concentrations in the air have been monitored since 2003. Currently, pollen monitoring is conducted by the aerobiologists of the Šiauliai University Faculty of Environmental Research. They aggregate current data with long-term monitoring data, phenological observation and meteorological information and present the public with pollen projections.

The aerobiologists of Šiauliai University provide: • information about atmospheric concentrations of airborne allergens; • timely information about pollen and spore quantities in the air; • seasonal pollen calendars; • comprehensive information about pollen, spores and how they spread.

By filling in the Pollen Diary you will contribute to helping us identify allergy threshold levels in Lithuania, in other words, we will be able to determine the airborne pollen count at which allergic reactions are triggered in individuals who suffer from pollen allergies. There is no general threshold in Europe because thresholds depend on the predominant flora and the background pollen pollution of a given area. Thus we will use daily data reported in the Pollen Diary and data about pollen concentration in the air to determine the threshold level. This way our predictions will become more accurate and informative. Tell your neighbour and your friends about the Pollen Diary.