Pollen Season: Inaccurate Forecasts Can Harm People with Allergies

Pollen season has begun. Alder and hazel are already in bloom. Many people with hay fever rely on pollen forecasts to avoid exposure to allergens. But some providers do not deliver reliable forecasts. The pollen count is often estimated to be too high or too low in these forecasts. The latter case in particular can lead to major health issues due to incorrectly dosed medication.

ECARF calls for quality standards in measuring and forecasting

Pollen allergy is the most common allergic disease”, says Dr Torsten Zuberbier, chairman of ECARF. “Carefully measured pollen counts and reliable forecasts make it easier for allergy sufferers to cope with the disease and receive the appropriate medical treatment. Incorrect or inaccurate measurements can lead to major health issues, which is completely unnecessary.” Zuberbier adds: “We need scientific standards for measuring and forecasting.” 

Forecasts are complex and require expertise

A study that recently appeared in the medical journal ‘Wiener klinischen Wochenschrift’ has now defined specific quality criteria for the first time.(1)

For the most precise pollen count forecast possible, a network of pollen counting stations is required. Pollen traps at these stations provide the current pollen count by trapping airborne pollen, identifying and counting it. The pollen count from one day and a comparison with various data, including the latest weather forecast, produce the forecast for the next day.

According to this recent study, some important quality criteria for reliable forecasts are: 

  • A dense network of pollen counting stations with reliable operations that delivers scientifically standardised, high-quality data
  • The measured pollen count needs to be aligned with weather, climate and environmental data that have been thoroughly checked in order to generate accurate forecasts
  • Scientific expertise and practical knowledge of allergy research as well as weather, climate, botany and environmental geography

One of the conclusions of the study is that reliable pollen forecasts can only be made by independent, non-commercial providers working in accordance with scientific standards and without any business interests. 

Online pollen forecast

The non-profit foundation Deutscher Polleninformationsdienst (PID – German Pollen Information Service Foundation – www.pollenstiftung.de) runs the biggest network of pollen counting stations in Germany. The foundation forwards the data to the Deutschen Wetterdienst (DWD – German Weather Service), which generates the forecasts. The latest forecast can be consulted on the Internet at www.dwd.de/pollenflug.

Sources 

  • Bastl K, Berger M, Bergmann K, Kmenta M, Berger U: The medical and scientific responsibility of pollen information services, Wiener klinische Wochenschrift. The Central European Journal of Medicine 2017; 129:70-74