How to survive the pollen allergy season in Sweden

How to survive the pollen allergy season in Sweden
It's that time of the year again. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
Allergy sufferers will be less than thrilled to learn the pollen season is already here, at least in southern Sweden. To make your life easier, The Local has some handy tips for how to survive the ordeal...

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Plan ahead

Planning won't eliminate your suffering but it could go a long way towards reducing it. Check the local pollen count forecast to find out well in advance when the worst days are likely to be, and if it's possible to avoid being outdoors on those days, consider taking shelter. Hot, windy days in particular are not your friend, as it's then that the most pollen spreads in the air, while still, wet and cloudy days tend to be the most tolerable.

Staying indoors just because there's a lot of pollen in the air may not be feasible of course, so perhaps it's more realistic to limit your outdoor time to early mornings and late evenings on those days (dew binds to pollen in the mornings and evenings, reducing the amount in the air). You could also wear a mask with a pollen filter if you need to go out during peak pollen times.

Above all, use the pollen forecasts to make sure that you start taking any medication with enough time in advance for it to kick in properly. Swedish names for the most common plants and trees causing pollen allergies are björk (birch), gräs (grass), gråbo (mugwort/wormwood), hassel (hazel), al (alder) and ek (oak).

Clear sunny days can be tricky if you suffer from a pollen allergy. Photo: Czarek Sokolowski/AP

Find the right medication

There is a long list of non-prescription medication available in Sweden that can be used to alleviate the symptoms of a pollen allergy. The most common starting point is antihistamine tablets, but depending on the symptoms you may also want to use Cortisone nasal spray for congestion, and eye drops containing Chromones for runny eyes.

Medication won't completely eliminate your symptoms, but it should ease them. If that doesn't happen, it could be time to speak to a doctor. They can prescribe something stronger – including a course of anti-allergy vaccinations if they see fit – and perhaps more importantly test you to make sure it's a pollen allergy you have in the first place and not something else (or a combination).

That familiar feeling… Photo: Erik Nylander/TT

Good housekeeping

For allergy sufferers a clean house is a happier house, so make sure that's the case as much as possible. Some vacuum cleaners have HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters that catch pollen and other particles, while changing bed sheets regularly will contribute to a better night's sleep.

Simple acts like shutting vents when the pollen level is high and keeping your bedroom door closed during the day to minimize the spread of pollen from the rest of the house are also worthwhile. Keeping flowers indoors should be avoided, and if you have a garden, resist the temptation to cut the lawn, which increases the pollen in the air.

Few enjoy cleaning but it could make life easier if you have a pollen allergy. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Adapt your routine

When there's a high pollen count, make sure to take a shower, wash your hair, and immediately change your clothes when you come home – all of which should get rid of any pollen hanging around. It's also best to dry your clothing indoors rather than outside, so it picks up less of the irritating particles.

If you have a pet, brush them regularly and in particular when they come indoors from the wider world. It's also a good idea to get your exercise fix indoors rather than out when pollen levels are particularly high.

It's thought that some foods can trigger symptoms in those who have pollen allergies (a phenomenon known as cross-reactions), with certain fruit and herbs some of the culprits, so consider reducing your intake of them – especially in combination – if you notice it triggering your allergy when the pollen season is at its worst.

Persistent congestion can be brutal and it it's really bad, rinsing your nose with a saline solution can provide some quick relief – doing so before bed may aid sleep.

Finally, drinking plenty of water is a must, and hot fluids are one way of doing that while also benefiting from the clearing effects of steam, which will ease your blocked nose and breathing.

Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

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