Allergy App Review: The Pollen App

We test allergy apps for you on smartphones and tablets. The Pollen app is the first application in our review series.

The Pollen app offers much more than just pollen forecasts. It allows users to log their symptoms. The app could make diagnosis and therapy easier.

Overview of the App

When the app is opened, a circle diagram shows the current pollen count for the day on a scale of 0 to 100. It is calculated based on the individual data of all users who log their personal exposure in the app.

All the other features can be accessed via the integrated menu, which includes a detailed display of the pollen count for today, the next day and the day after that. The eight most allergenic types of pollen are included in the overview. The user preselects the location of the forecast.

Where does the app get pollen forecasts from in Germany? Stiftung Deutscher Polleninformationsdienst (German Pollen Information Service Foundation – www.pollenstiftung.de), a non-profit organisation, operates the biggest network of measuring stations in Germany. The foundation forwards the data to Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD – German weather service), which generates the forecasts.

The pollen diary can be found in the menu under Symptoms. The diary is quite detailed and can be helpful for obtaining a professional diagnosis and therapy. A user account must be registered first. When creating the profile on pollendiary.com, the user is asked some important questions on the status of diagnosis and therapy. Then it is all set to go. The daily pollen count is synchronised with the overall sensitivity and symptoms of the eyes, nose and lungs. This allows the app to deliver customised forecasts. However, some important features of the diary can only be used on pollendiary.com.

Forecast maps can be called up from the app’s menu. The map feature is new and only available as of the version 4.1 update. It provides overview maps for all of Europe (SILAM database). The overview diagrams for the pollen count based on location are just as detailed, but only locations in Austria can be displayed at the moment, which makes this feature uninteresting for the time being for most users in Germany.

A comprehensive pollen dictionary can be found in the menu under Info. It provides clear information on allergenic plants. There is also a tutorial that provides a simple and concise written explanation of the app features.

Practical notifications can be configured in the settings. Even when the app is not in active use, the user can stay informed with push notifications on a mobile phone. These include acute pollen count warnings, newsflashes and doctor’s appointment reminders. A short allergy questionnaire can also be filled out.

Users must register for full access to features

The highlight of the Pollen app is the pollen diary described above. Pollen forecasts can also be quickly displayed in the smartphone browser without the app. But customised forecasts are only available through the pollen diary.

The diary feature synchronises the personal symptoms entered by the user with the pollen count. Each day, the user records his personal count and the symptoms he experiences. He can also enter any medications he has taken. It takes one or two minutes per day to enter the information, which is automatically represented in diagrams. These show whether the user has allergic reactions to certain types of pollen in the air.

This allows the user to link his symptoms to potential allergens. The app therefore makes it easier to obtain an allergy diagnosis from a medical professional. If the triggers have already been identified, the app can also help. Potential allergen exposure for the individual user is automatically recognised and taken into account in the forecast. However, it is important to keep in mind that the app is not a substitute for a doctor’s visit and medical therapy.

According to the provider, the data recorded in the diary are not shared with third parties. The information helps researchers collect findings about symptoms in relation to the regional pollen count throughout Europe.

The diary stores the email address, country and the system language. If the diary is also used via the browser, the age group, gender and birth month can also be entered. In order to keep all data anonymous, we recommend using an email address that does not reveal the user’s identity.

Providers

The app is ad-free and free of charge. It was developed by Stiftung Deutscher Polleninformationsdienst, a research group of the Medical University of Vienna, and the Austrian pollen information service. It is financially supported by the pharmaceutical company ALK-Abelló and technically developed by screencode GmbH.

Pros & cons

Pros:

  • The integrated pollen diary is very well structured and could be useful for a professional medical diagnosis and therapy. The data can be analysed and exported. Users who enter their symptoms on a regular basis receive customised pollen forecasts.
  • The forecast data used for the pollen count are reliable and not influenced by commercial interests.
  • The forecasts are detailed and based on location.
  • The user graphics are appealing and intuitive. The design is relaxed and user friendly.

Areas for improvement:

  • The app does not allow access to all the features of the pollen diary. This means that some users will not use the handy module, especially if they do not want to go to the trouble of registering or are unwilling to provide personal data. Data from specific days can be viewed in the online version of the diary (pollendiary.com), but unfortunately this cannot be done in the app. A convenient analysis of the user’s own diary entries can only be done on the website.
  • The daily pollen count is displayed when the app is started, which is a nice greeting. But it is doubtful whether this pollen count is actually of any use to the user, since it summarises the data of all allergens. This can be misleading for people who do not have a reaction to certain pollen types but have a severe reaction to other types.
  • The new forecast map feature is unfortunately not yet fully developed.
  • The menu navigation is clear; however, some important menu items are not easy to find, such as the informative pollen dictionary and the allergy questionnaire.
  • On Apple iPhones and iPads, the app sometimes forgets the entered user data, but the data in the pollen diary are not lost.

Summary

The app offers reliable pollen forecasts and much more. It is useful for people who want a better understanding of when they react to pollen and to which types. It helps log symptoms, which makes it a good aid for diagnosis and therapy. The extensive pollen dictionary provides users with information about many allergenic plants and the pollen count.

Rating: 

Hard facts

Classified as a medical product: no
Operating system: Apple iOS 6.0 and Android 4.0.3 and higher
Price: free
Languages: German, English, French, Italian, Swedish