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08 April 2020
Asthma , Allergy
PREVENT, CARE, - Quality of Life, - Air Quality

Spring is getting closer and with it also the pollen season, a nightmare for many people living with allergy and respiratory diseases, who see their quality of life impaired every season due to this pollen.

Technology today can help us observing and monitoring pollen levels and supporting doctors in diagnosis, treatment, research and patient education.

Moreover, pollen observations can help in forecasting, so that people with allergies or asthma have the ability to more effectively plan their activities and their medication intake.

Automatic pollen networks and real-time pollen data

With this in mind, the Swiss federal weather and climate service provider MeteoSwiss has put in place the AutoPollen Programme (2018-2022), which aims to provide information and recommendations for the establishment of automatic pollen networks and the development of related products based on real-time pollen data.

Yet for reaching this goal, many aspects need to be taken into consideration. Therefore, the European Meteorological Services Network (EuMetNet) organised a stakeholder workshop in Brussels early March.

High-level interest in pollen monitoring

The workshop was attended by several potential users having an interest in automatic pollen monitoring information. Attendees included public health institutions (such as WHO Europe, the Bavarian State Ministry of Health and the Milano Public Health & Hygiene agency), healthcare professionals and patients’ representatives.

With a mix of presentations, open discussions and breakout sessions, the workshop-participants became aware of the developments and new possibilities that pollen monitoring provides, and started to elaborate on potential uses.

Real time pollen information: big support for respiratory patients

During the workshop it was discussed, among others, what kind of information is useful and how we would like to receive it. Definitely, real time information is helpful for patients living with asthma and allergy. Having detailed and up-to-date numbers on whether going out is safe right now or might potentially lead to an exacerbation of symptoms, provides a big support for patients.

Yet collecting reliable data can be challenging: therefore it was proposed to have several observations during the day that allow for a strong and valuable data-base.

Informed decisions - for patients and healthcare professionals

Real time information and forecast is not only crucial for patients, but also supports doctors to make informed decisions. For example, it allows to advice on areas to avoid at peak-times and the adjustment of medication intake. In this respect, colour coding and simple visual information have been proposed as measures to make people aware of a potential dangerous situation.

And what about the infrastructure? Are countries equipped to collect reliable data, elaborate it and provide useful information based on the figures?

The workshop was a first opportunity to bring added value to the discussion with the view of broadening the collaboration and ensuring a feedback process on the use of real-time pollen information and its impact. At EFA we welcome this initiative and hope for increased and unified action on real-time pollen data soon.

More information on EuMetNet here.