The study examined the tree canopy and the distribution of grasses to allow people to locate areas where they could be particularly affected. The resulting maps show where the allergenic plants and trees are located around Great Britain.
The academics used sophisticated aerial mapping, as well as data from a variety of sources, to show the geographical distribution of the 12 key types of plant associated with hay fever and asthma brought on by allergies. In London, the prevalence of allergenic plants is broken down by neighbourhood.
The maps include the location of grasses, weeds and trees producing pollen known to trigger hay fever and asthma, including birch, alder, hazel, plane trees and oak, grass, nettles, mugwort and plantain.
They show a higher percentage of allergenic grass in the northern and western regions of great Britain. The eastern-central area of the UK has the lowest percentage of allergenic grass. The north-west and Western Scotland have the highest density of grass coverage.
Reducing hospital admissions
The detailed maps of the location of pollen, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, may make it possible to identify plants increasing the risk of higher hospital admissions for asthma.
Research by Dr Nicholas Osborne, an epidemiologist and toxicologist at the University of Exeter’s Medical School, said the maps will help doctors narrow down which pollens are most likely to trigger asthma attacks.
‘We hope that these maps will contribute to ongoing research that aims to better determine when plants pollenate, allowing us with time to provide better warning to allergy and asthma sufferers to enable them to better manage their disease.
‘In the future, more people will know what species they are allergic to.’
DR NICHOLAS OSBORNE
Epidemiologist and toxicologist,University of Exeter’s Medical School
The map of tree locations used data from a high-resolution National Tree Map produced by Bluesky International, which used high-resolution aerial photography and remote sensing, as well as information from the Forestry Commission.
Click here to view an album of the hay fever maps on Flickr.