(Vienna, 13th March 2013) As the pollen season begins, Austria's pollen warning service at the MedUni Vienna is unveiling a service that is the only one of its kind worldwide. The new App takes account for the first time ever of the individual's personal sensitivity to pollen, allowing a highly personalised pollen warning to be issued.
Alder and hazelnut trees are already ushering in the current pollen season with their blossoms. And so the suffering begins for countless people who suffer with hay fever. Around one in four Austrians experiences a debilitating excessive response by the immune system to certain substances, such as the pollen of certain plants. “The good weather at the start of March has led to a massive increase in the amount of alder and hazelnut tree pollen being released,” says Uwe E. Berger, Head of the Austrian pollen warning service at the MedUni Vienna.
The first pollens from birch and even ash trees are already in the air, especially in the west and south of the country. Experts predict that significant volumes of pollen will be in the air during the last week of March. Overall, the amount of birch pollen in the air is likely to be slightly lower this year than in 2012. So a particularly bad season is not on the cards. At the moment, no predictions can be made regarding grass, mugwort and ragweed pollen. All the expert can say is that “the ragweed season is likely to last a few days longer this year, following the trend of recent years,” says Berger.
Individual pollen warnings straight to your mobile
Symptoms vary from individual to individual. Some people with allergies have severe reactions, whereas others barely notice a thing. A new, free App from the MedUni Vienna’s pollen warning services takes this fact into account and calculates how badly an individual is likely to be affected: a personalised pollen alarm, including a forecast for the next three days. Says Berger: “Our first App meant that the pollen warnings could be easily retrieved last year while people were on the move. 40,000 allergy sufferers have since downloaded the App to their Smartphone, since it gives them a constant and quick overview of which of the twelve key allergens are currently in the air, to what extent and in what area. We’ve now developed this information service further and we now offer a forecast that is also tailored to the allergy sufferer’s personal reaction profile.”
Based on personal symptom data that is entered in advance into a “pollen diary”, pollen allergy sufferers are assigned a specific reaction profile and classified into four groups, in a similar way to the UV skin types system. The general prediction (zero pollen count to very high pollen count) will then in future be revised upwards or downwards, depending on the individual’s calculated class. If the integrated GPS is set in advance, the pollen warning automatically adapts to the new area if the individual moves location.
The personalised pollen warning is the first application of this type worldwide and is available to download free of charge for iPhones and Android mobiles as well as other mobile devices at www.pollenwarndienst.at and in the App stores. The service is available in German and English and also extends beyond Austria’s borders into Germany and France.
Early treatment restores quality of life
A respiratory allergy can be a significant burden on sufferers and their families. Disturbed sleep, problems at work, illness or time off school are common consequences of an untreated or inadequately treated allergy. “The impact on the quality of life is sometimes experienced more markedly than that of a disease that’s taken ‘seriously’, such as diabetes,” says Otto Spranger, spokesman for the Austrian Lung Union. In order to avoid this, prompt medical assistance should be sought. “If symptoms such as sniffles, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes last longer than four weeks, the cause definitively needs to be determined and a doctor specialising in the treatment of allergies should be consulted,” advises Zsolt Szépfalusi from the University Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the MedUni Vienna.
Every allergy sufferer's treatment is different
Allergies are highly complex and vary from patient to patient. This calls for personalised solutions. The Medical University of Vienna has therefore defined allergy medicine as one of its core areas of research. The Head of the Institute of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research, Barbara Bohle, says: “The goals of our current research have been clearly outlined: we are working on developing treatments that are safer and more efficient. We are aiming to shorten treatment times and also discover new forms of delivering treatments.” The basis of every treatment and the most important therapeutic measure is the avoidance or reduction of contact with the allergen itself. “If contact with the substance triggering the allergy can be largely avoided, this has a significant impact on the course of the condition. However, with flower pollen, which is everywhere in the air we breathe, this isn’t always easy,” says paediatrician Dr. Szépfalusi. “As a result, services like the Austrian pollen warning service are extremely valuable.”
Announcement: “World Allergy and Asthma Day” on 7th April in Vienna’s Town Hall
The “World Allergy and Asthma Day” organised by the Austrian Lung Union, being held on Sunday, 7th April 2013 between 10 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. at Vienna's Town Hall, is also being dedicated to the subjects of education and information. Free allergy testing, lung function tests, advice and talks from renowned experts will be on offer. For more information, visit www.lungenunion.at.