South of France on red alert for pollen

Spring-like temperatures see 13 departments put on alert for allergy-causing pollen, with advice issued to help by the national pollen network

21 February 2021
A woman blowing her nose suffering from allergies. South of France on red alert for pollenPollen allergies can cause sneezing, sinus problems, red eyes, and even a rash in some cases
By Hannah Thompson

A total of 13 departments in the south of France are already on high or very high for allergy-causing pollen after spring-like temperatures in the past few days.

Pollen surveillance network le Réseau National de Surveillance Aérobiologique (RNSA) issued the maximum “red” alert for the Haute-Garonne, Ariège, Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude, Hérault, Gard, Vaucluse and Var.

Five other departments are also on “high” alert - the level below “red”. These are Tarn, Aveyron, Lozère, Bouches-du-Rhône and Alpes-Maritimes.

(Map: Pollens.fr)

The pollen risk has risen due to mild temperatures in the departments over the past few days. Weather has a direct impact on the pollen count and can increase the spread of pollen in the air.

The RNSA said: “France is split in two” when it comes to allergies. While colder temperatures in the northern half of the country have “put a brake on tree flowering”, it said, “more mild temperatures in the south” have “facilitated the spread of cypress pollen”.

Pollen allergies can cause sneezing, sinus problems, red eyes, and even a rash in some cases.

Pollen from cypress trees tends to be the most problematic, followed by ash, alder, and hazel. The cypress pollination season lasts from January to April, and can therefore cause pollen allergies even in winter and early spring.

The issue is expected to last for the next few weeks, with temperatures set to be 6C-8C higher than the seasonal average in the coming week.

Researchers at the RNSA, air monitoring network Atmo and pollen alert association l'Association des Pollinariums sentinelles de France have suggested that climate change will also cause “a rise in pollen amounts” over the coming years.

The RNSA has issued some advice for people who suffer from pollen allergies:

  • Continue any existing anti-allergy treatment
  • Rinse your hair in the evening, as a lot of pollen settles on hair
  • Avoid exposure to other irritants or air-polluting substances such as tobacco, air fresheners, scented candles, or incense
  • Avoid drying clothes outside to stop pollen from settling on them
  • Open windows before dawn and after sunset, as pollen is worse during daylight hours
  • Avoid outdoor activities that could expose you to more pollen, such as mowing the lawn, gardening, or outdoor sport. If you must work outside, wear a mask and eye protection
  • Keep your windows closed when travelling by car

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