Early spring brings pollen misery for some

Early spring brings pollen misery for some
A hazel plant in Sweden. Photo: Stefan Holm
Spring has sprung in southern Sweden where the new season is deemed to have arrived when temperatures remain above freezing for seven says in a row. But the milder weather isn't all good news for hayfever sufferers.
"There's no turning back. Whether we like it or not, winter is over and spring is here," wrote Swedish newswire TT in a report earlier this week.
Forecasters deem spring to have arrived when average daily temperatures remain above zero for seven days in a row. This means that the season has already officially arrived in Skåne and Blekinge in southern Sweden.
Southern Götaland and Svealand are set to enter the new season later this week and much of the rest of the country is not far behind. 
In Stockholm there is noticeably less ice on the roads and pavements compared to the start of the month and you don't need to wear such an enormous jacket to get around.
The Local's northern Sweden reporter Paul Connolly who got snowed in just a few weeks ago emailed on Monday to say the weather was "unseasonably warm up here," adding "I've even sold the snowmobile".
Gothenburg has also enjoyed the hottest February temperature ever recorded in the region, with 11.6C reached earlier this month.
But the milder weather isn't all good news for people living in Sweden.
For winter sport enthusiasts it means there is less snow around to ski or snowboard on and frozen lakes are starting to melt. And for hayfever sufferers the milder weather is already starting to affect the pollen count.
"We have had milder winters over the last 20 to 25 years but this winter has been even milder than usual and now the spring is arriving," Aslög Dahl, head of the pollen laboratory at the University of Gothenburg told The Local.
"Hazel were spotted flowering as early as December and now we are going to see more of them. These are closely related to birch, which is one of the worst offenders when it comes to pollen," she added.
According to Dahl, people who have come into contact with Hazel flowers or birch trees during walks in the Swedish countryside over the winter may have already experienced hayfever symptoms without realizing.
"A lot of people complain at this time of year and think they have a cold but it is actually the pollen causing an allergy. Others may laugh and say this is not possible, but it is," she said.
Hayfever is a common allergy that is thought to affect around one in five Europeans at some stage in their lives.
Symptoms include itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose.
Treatment options include taking antihistamines which are drugs that can prevent these symptoms and taking steroids which can help reduce swelling and inflammation.