April 22, 2023 08:18
Spring came unusually early this year, and that also means that hay fever season has come sooner.
People think of colorful spring blossom as the main culprits for their allergy, but entomophilous flowers like cherry blossom and forsythia whose pollen is transported by insects rarely cause allergies. The culprits are anemophilous plants such as oak, pine and linden as well as grasses that are carried by the wind.
Kwon Hyouk-soo, an internist at Asan Medical Center, said, "Right after the Korean War, there weren't many trees left in Korea and there were fewer hay fever cases here, but since the 1970s the country has been reforested, resulting in more allergies."
One 47-year-old office worker sitting in an eye clinic in downtown Seoul recently said, "My eyes are red and itchy, which used to happen around April, but this year it started in late March."
An estimated 1.77 million people in Korea suffered from allergic conjunctivitis in 2020, and most are hay fever sufferers.
Pollen levels peak when the temperature fluctuates between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius, which is around late April and mid-May in Korea. But climate change has sped up the biological clocks of plants.
Oh Jae-won, a pediatrician at Hanyang University Guri Hospital researched pollen levels from 1997 and 2017 and found that they emerged around 70 days after the new year in 1997 but 50 days in 2017.
"Pollen is harmless and most of us show no reaction, but some people's immune systems overreact and treat them as harmful organisms." The main symptoms are runny nose, sneezing and swollen eyes.
Sufferers should avoid going outdoors between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m when pollen levels are at their highest because it collects overnight and is carried off by the morning wind.
Outside, people who wear contact lenses should replace them with glasses and dust their shoes when they come home.
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