Hay Fever
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    What are the best (and worst) European travel destinations for hay fever sufferers?

    Planning a trip to Europe but worried about how your hay fever might flare up? This article aims to help you make your travel plans by answering frequently asked questions about hay fever in Europe. We'll look into what specific destinations are like for hay fever sufferers, highlight the best and worst places to visit and discuss the factors that can impact your hay fever symptoms while abroad so you can have a relaxing, symptom-free trip.

    A lady suffering from hay fever whilst walking in a park in Europe

    Key Takeaways

    Here are the top 5 takeaways from this article about travelling around Europe as a hay fever sufferer:

    • Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, affects a significant portion of Europeans, with estimates ranging from 4% to 32% depending on the country.

    • The timing of peak pollen season varies across Europe. Generally, Northern, Eastern, and Central Europe experience peak grass pollen concentrations in June, while Mediterranean regions see this peak about a month earlier. Altitude also influences pollen timing.

    • Recommendations for travellers with specific pollen allergies include avoiding travel during peak pollen periods.

    • European destinations vary widely in terms of pollen levels. Coastal regions and certain islands like the Canary Islands typically offer lower pollen counts and shorter hay fever seasons compared to inland areas and urban centres.

    • Factors such as pollution and weather significantly influence hay fever severity. Urban areas tend to have higher pollen levels and longer allergy seasons due to pollution and weather conditions like wind patterns and temperature fluctuations.

    How common is hay fever in Europe?

    Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is a prevalent condition in Europe. It is estimated that around 40% of Europeans will experience hay fever at some point in their lives (Lake, University of East Anglia). This number is sometimes disputed, with the European Community Respiratory Health Survey suggesting that allergic rhinitis affects 4% to 32% of people in different European countries (Pawankar et al, 2013).

    When is peak pollen season in Europe?

    Peak pollen season in Europe varies by region and altitude. Generally, in Northern, Eastern and Central Europe, the grass pollen season begins in early May and continues until the end of July, with peak pollen concentrations typically occurring in June. In Mediterranean regions, the season starts and ends about a month earlier. Altitude can also affect this timing, with grasses at higher elevations starting to flower 2-3 weeks later than those in lowland areas (Dirr et al, 2023).

    When should I avoid travelling if I have a tree pollen allergy?

    Understanding what type of pollen affects you most is important for determining when you should avoid travelling. If you have a tree pollen allergy then it is best to avoid travelling during the spring as tree pollen levels are usually at their highest. Instead, planning your holidays from July to January is advisable, as tree pollen concentrations are typically much lower during this period.

    When should I avoid travelling if I have a ragweed allergy?

    If ragweed is your biggest allergy, it's best to avoid travelling in early autumn. This is when ragweed pollen levels are at their highest, which can trigger significant allergy symptoms. Ragweed is more commonly found in North America, but can also be found in some areas of Europe.

    When should I avoid travelling if I have a grass pollen allergy?

    If you're especially sensitive to grass pollen, it's best to avoid travelling in early summer. During this period, grass pollen levels are at their peak, which can trigger severe allergy symptoms. As mentioned previously, altitude can affect pollen levels, so be mindful if you are travelling to particularly high (or low) areas. What are the best and worst months for travelling to different cities in Europe as a hay fever sufferer?

    Below is a table with some of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations with information about pollen levels during different months of the year.

    City

    Tree Pollen Best Month

    Tree Pollen Worst Month

    Grass Pollen Best Month

    Grass Pollen Worst Month

    Weed Pollen Best Month

    Weed Pollen Worst Month

    DublinAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-JuneSeptember
    AmsterdamAug-Oct & Jan-FebMarchSept-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    AlicanteAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayNov-MayAugust
    BarcelonaAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayDec-MayAugust
    LisbonAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayNov-MayAugust
    RomeAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayDec-MaySeptember
    MilanAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    FaroAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayNov-MayAugust
    LarnacaAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayNov-MayAugust
    MadridAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayNov-MayAugust
    BudapestAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-MayAugust
    BerlinAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    AthensAug-FebAprilSept-FebAprilNov-MayAugust
    PragueAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    CopenhagenAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    AntalyaAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayNov-MayAugust
    IbizaAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilJune-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    KrakówAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneDec-MayAugust
    ParisAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    BenidormAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayNov-MayAugust
    ViennaAug-Oct & Jan-FebMarchSept-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    TiranaAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayNov-MayAugust
    CorfuAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayNov-MayAugust
    ZurichAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    SevilleAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayNov-MayAugust
    WarsawAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    HeraklionAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebAprilDec-MayAugust
    FlorenceAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    GenevaAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-MayAugust
    FrankfurtAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebJuneNov-MaySeptember
    PortoAug-Oct & Jan-FebAprilSept-FebMayNov-MayAugust

    Spain

    What is Spain like as a travel destination for hay fever sufferers?

    Spain presents a varied landscape for hay fever sufferers, with pollen levels differing across regions. In Andalucia and central areas, high pollen counts from olive and plane trees as well as grasses are common until mid-July. 

    On the other hand, the Costa del Sol, Costa Almeria, and Costa Dorada typically experience lower to moderate pollen counts. Understanding these regional variations can help hay fever sufferers plan their travels in Spain accordingly to minimise allergy symptoms.

    Portugal

    What is Portugal like as a travel destination for hay fever sufferers?

    Portugal offers varied experiences for hay fever sufferers depending on the region. Madeira and the Algarve are recommended destinations during hay fever season, as they generally experience low pollen counts. 

    The Algarve benefits from westerly winds that help keep pollen levels down. In Estremadura and the North-West regions of Portugal, the hay fever season extends later into the year, with grass pollen counts persisting into September.

    Italy

    What is Italy like as a travel destination for hay fever sufferers?

    Italy offers a mixed experience for hay fever sufferers depending on the region. The west coast and the northern lakes are recommended during hay fever season due to their low pollen counts, making them ideal destinations. 

    On the other hand, regions like the Po Valley and Naples have particularly high pollen counts in May and June, making them less favourable for allergy sufferers. In cities such as Florence and Rome, the hay fever season can be prolonged, but it typically peaks earlier than in the UK.

    France

    What is France like as a travel destination for hay fever sufferers?

    France offers varied experiences for hay fever sufferers depending on the region. The west coast of France is recommended during hay fever season due to generally low pollen counts, making it an ideal destination. 

    In contrast, inland areas of France with lush vegetation can experience higher pollen counts. The south of France and the French Riviera are known for particularly high pollen levels. In specific areas like around Paris, grass pollen can be a significant allergen, while tree pollen counts can also be high throughout the country.

    Greece

    What is Greece like as a travel destination for hay fever sufferers?

    Greece offers varying conditions for hay fever sufferers depending on the region. The Greek islands such as Kos, Crete and Corfu generally have lower pollen counts compared to more inland areas like Athens. While some larger islands may still have noticeable pollen levels, they tend to be lower than those experienced inland.

    Ireland

    What is Ireland like as a travel destination for hay fever sufferers?

    Ireland, particularly Dublin, offers a favourable destination for hay fever sufferers, especially for those from the UK looking for a cooler climate closer to home. Dublin typically has lower concentrations of grass pollen and ragweed pollen during the summer months compared to other locations.

    Canary Islands

    What are the Canary Islands like as a travel destination for hay fever sufferers?

    The Canary Islands are highly recommended for hay fever sufferers due to their low pollen counts and short hay fever season. Pollen levels typically diminish by the end of May, making it an excellent destination for those looking to avoid allergens.

    What factors can affect the severity of hay fever when you travel?

    Destination

    The destination you go on holiday to can significantly affect the severity of hay fever symptoms. Coastal cities generally have lower pollen counts due to higher humidity levels, which can help reduce airborne pollen. However, several factors can influence pollen levels and aggravate hay fever symptoms, including inland winds that may carry pollen from surrounding areas, pollution and varying weather conditions such as wind patterns and rainfall (Roca, 2024).

    Pollution

    Pollution plays a significant role in aggravating hay fever symptoms, especially in urban areas. Research combining pollution measurements, pollen data and meteorological information from the UK Met Office has highlighted that urban areas generally experience higher symptom severity and longer symptom duration related to hay fever.

    Ozone is linked significantly with the severity of hay fever symptoms. This pollutant, along with others present in urban environments can exacerbate allergic reactions and increase discomfort for hay fever sufferers (Addelman, 2023). You may be better off visiting areas that are less built up and have less pollution if you suffer from hay fever as it can make your symptoms worse.

    Weather

    Weather conditions play a crucial role in the dynamics of pollen production, distribution, and dispersion. Here's how different weather factors can impact pollen levels according to the Met Office:

    • Rain: Rain can temporarily wash away pollen from the air, surfaces and plants, which can provide relief for hay fever sufferers.

    • Wind: Wind plays a dual role. It can disperse pollen over long distances, increasing exposure for allergy sufferers, especially in windy conditions. On the other hand, breezes can help to clear pollen from the air.

    • Temperature: Warmer temperatures can accelerate plant growth and pollen production.

    • Sunshine: Sunshine promotes plant growth and pollen production, particularly in species sensitive to light levels.

    Sources

    Travelling | Allergy UK

    Holidaying with hayfever | A.Vogel

    Travelling abroad with allergies | Nottingham Eczema Support Group

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