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Developing the pollen forecast: a vital tool in the prevention and treatment of hay fever

With up to a quarter of the UK’s population effected by hay fever, resulting in about 4 million sick days per year, the ability to forecast pollen counts has become a crucial part of an individual’s and many businesses’ work plans.

The pollen forecast is a vital tool in the prevention and treatment of hay fever – or allergic rhinitis – with the NHS advising people to check the forecast as part of its recommended strategy for managing the condition.

Research undertaken by the University of Worcester’s National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit (NPARU) over a period of 20 years has resulted in the ability to provide such forecasts. Scientists within NPARU have carried out vital research into the development and testing of different types of air sampling equipment, as well as examining the possible effects of climate change on the profile of the pollen season.

Using data produced by the National Pollen Monitoring Network, the scientists produce and supply the daily pollen forecasts to the Met Office, along with a number of media outlets. NPARU’s research has contributed to policy debate on allergy services and ultimately informed the development of quality control measures for these services.

NPARU’s research has also underpinned training provided to health professionals, including pharmacists, optometrists and dispensing opticians. In addition, the Unit undertakes clinical trials of seven anti-allergy products, such as bedding and hay fever treatments. This testing is undertaken under the agency of Allergy UK, which provides accreditation of the products through a seal of approval.