The pollen season is upon us, and hay fever sufferers know from experience what to expect.
But this year is different from other years: how do you tell whether the symptoms you are suffering are in fact hay fever, and not, for example, a coronavirus infection?
The alarm has been sounded already for an increase in the pollen count.
“Tree pollen is now starting to be produced, with the birch trees the main problem, with more than one hundred grains per cubic metre,” explained Frank Deboosere, weather-man for the VRT.
The typical signs and symptoms of hay fever include a runny nose, sneezing, red eyes and a tickly throat, perhaps accompanied by a cough.
The symptoms of coronavirus, however, differ markedly, said earn-nose and throat doctor Peter Hellings of the Leuven university hospital.
“With a coronavirus infection there are other important components, such as loss of the sense of smell, fever and a general feeling of being unwell,” he said.
Right now is the height of the season for pollen from taxus, poplar, willow and ash, and early season for the beech tree – a matter of interest to anyone living within sneezing distance of the Sonien Forest, which is recognised by Unesco as a historic beech forest.
Assuming the symptoms are limited to those described for hay fever, and in addition to the rules on confinement in force to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the Flemish scientific institute for public health offers sufferers some advice:
• Avoid activities involving exertions in the open air;
• Air out the house in the evening when pollen levels are lower;
• Keep car windows closed;
• Wear sunglasses outside when walking or cycling;
• Dry your laundry indoors;
• Use paper handkerchiefs, as pollen can hang on to fabric;
• Wash hair before going to bed to get rid of grains;
• Don’t cut the grass and avoid places where lawns are being mowed; and
• Avoid fruits and vegetables that aggravate your symptoms.