The pollen count in Cape Town has reached a new record, at almost five times the level regarded as “very high”.
The amount of tree pollen in the air is 14% higher than it was a decade ago, the University of Cape Town Lung Institute said on Tuesday.
Tree pollen levels had “surged to a whopping 235 grains per cubic metre,” said Jonny Peter, head of the institute’s allergy unit.
A count of less than five grains is considered low, while a daily count greater than 50 grains is considered very high. Peter said plane, pine, cypress and oak tree pollen were the main culprits as the trees entered their flowering cycle.
“The good winter rain followed by unusually warm weather early in September offers a likely explanation for these high concentrations of tree pollen,” said Peter.
“Knowing what type of pollen is released into the atmosphere will help doctors to make the right diagnosis and prescribe the correct treatment,” he said.
Weekly pollen counts are being made available to healthcare practitioners and hay fever sufferers at www.pollencount.co.za – the official pollen monitoring website for SA.
Peter recommends staying indoors when pollen counts are very high and to keep windows and doors closed. Pollen was typically at its worst on hot, windy afternoons, he said.
Cape Town has a dedicated pollen spore trap in Observatory which traps airborne allergens such as mould, tree, grass and weed pollen.
Pollen allergies affect an estimated 20%-30% of South Africans, said Peter. Common symptoms include an itchy, runny or congested nose, red and scratchy eyes, sore throat, postnasal-drip, fatigue and dark circles under the eyes.
Nasal sprays and oral antihistamines are typically prescribed, while immunotherapy is recommended for those with severe pollen allergies.