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Hay fever season arriving early this year

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In 2019, people suffering from hay fever have bought their pollen allergy medication relatively early in the year.

CBS (Centraal Bureau Voor De Statistiek)

© Hollandse Hoogte / Bert Beelen
In 2019, people suffering from hay fever have bought their pollen allergy medication relatively early in the year. The first peak in purchases of hay fever medication was already reached between February and early March, more than one month earlier than in previous years. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new sales figures of hay fever medication, as reflected in the hay fever index.

CBS published the hay fever index for the first time in the spring of 2018. This index shows how the hay fever season progresses on the basis of pharmacy sales of hay fever medication. Last year, turnover of hay fever medication showed a higher peak than in previous years, partly because of the warm weather in April.

In the chart below, the turnover index shows the development of weekly sales of hay fever medication relative to the average weekly turnover in 2016. The same chart displays the changing count of allergenic pollen in the air. It also shows the pollen counts - measured by Elkerliek Hospital - of tree and plant varieties which trigger moderate, severe or very severe allergic reactions such as the hazelnut tree, alder, birch, Poaceae, Rumex, Plantago, Cedar of Lebanon, Artemisia and Ambrosia. Peaks in the sale of over-the-counter medication for the treatment of hay fever are found to coincide, more or less, with airborne pollen counts.

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Turnover in hay fever medication and pollen concentrations in the air
   Turnover index medicationMost allergenic pollen
2016126.524
223.43
322.413
424.3107
527.51013
632.9269
730.0263
835.2179
934.9133
1065.9276
1195.3303
1273.4199
1392.442
14134.71177
15228.43475
16179.9363
17108.6282
18326.3711
19373.3231
20182.9204
21259.785
22510.4506
23561.1563
24159.939
25142.1167
26113.00
27135.2510
28119.1195
29123.0181
3088.416
3168.768
3262.198
3367.782
3465.1105
3557.273
3654.5102
3753.344
3851.848
3944.771
4041.79
4131.29
4232.13
4328.11
4425.40
4522.51
4621.41
4723.61
4822.40
4920.70
5022.50
5127.20
5226.66
2017124.96
222.521
322.17
424.910
525.918
623.03
731.2351
840.4880
953.8150
1065.347
11111.3124
12110.79
13221.32623
14184.81017
15172.5381
16120.8143
17115.393
18126.764
19144.726
20171.5171
21420.1
22505.9290
23272.9307
24297.9139
25238.0235
26126.0122
27129.6156
28103.781
29109.325
3083.364
3173.950
3262.663
3356.965
3464.662
3556.026
3644.37
3736.025
3837.731
3933.917
4030.520
4130.56
4230.11
4330.61
4430.21
4527.40
4624.90
4725.70
4825.50
4921.93
5032.90
5142.92
5242.448
2018129.15
227.270
325.923
431.8143
534.460
631.2143
733.1262
838.3217
933.584
1058.91054
1183.3237
1266.742
1378.58
14126.1330
15263.23709
16540.14398
17257.8380
18231.045
19293.788
20204.9120
21607.4661
22452.5742
23302.0318
24203.2312
25138.1189
26168.9281
27169.7236
28110.2124
29117.261
3092.5145
3175.096
3257.6100
3349.311
3446.114
3544.128
3637.461
3736.986
3837.462
3934.818
4030.64
4129.56
4235.43
4333.26
4431.42
4528.40
4625.90
4728.43
4827.10
4925.01
5026.60
5133.010
5241.549
2019138.349
230.13
335.554
431.812
531.922
632.5157
7100.44915
8258.14242
9279.91366
1091.275
Source: CBS, Elkerliek hospital

High pollen concentrations in February

A sharp increase in concentrations of alder and hazelnut pollen in particular was measured in February, following a week with relatively high temperatures. This immediately led to increased sales of hay fever medication, which lasted for several weeks. Sales dropped again at the beginning of March, when pollen concentrations in the air had decreased significantly.

Turnover of hay fever medication

The hay fever index - the turnover index of hay fever medication - is based on weekly sales figures obtained from Dutch pharmacies. This involves self-medication products which are available without prescription at a pharmacy. This type of medication is in the form of tablets, nasal sprays or eye drops which relieve allergic reactions. These weekly data have been processed by the CBS Centre for Big Data Statistics (CBDS) into a weekly turnover index of hay fever medication. The turnover index is not designed to provide the total sales volume of hay fever medication in the Netherlands, but to give more insight into the development of the hay fever season and the purchasing moments of consumers, based on developments in weekly sales.


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