One-fifth of Finland's residents suffer from some form of pollen allergy, but birch pollen levels were so high on Wednesday they have caused allergy symptoms in people who are not normally affected by the yellow airborne particles.
Anne Vuorenmaa, who's an expert at Finland's Allergy, Skin and Asthma Federation, says this is the worst birch pollen season in four years. She says her office has received an unusually large number of calls from allergy-suffering people, asking for advice on how to reduce symptoms.
Even people who aren't normally affected by pollen dust have been contacting the federation, she says, and they aren't sure whether their symptoms are due to allergies or the flu.
The website Norkko tracks pollen levels across the country, and collects forecast data in collaboration with the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The service is provided by the Aerobiology Unit of the University of Turku. The forecast is based on pollen monitoring data, weather forecasts and airborne particulate dispersion models. The organisation's forecasts are posted by noon on weekdays.
Expert: Take allergy medicine or risk asthma
"If your nose is running and you have to blow your nose all the time, it's probably a question of allergies. When people have the flu, they need to blow their noses several times to clear their nasal passages," she explains.
Vuorenmaa says there is no point for people to miserably endure their symptoms, and recommends taking medications.
"Take medicine and enjoy the summer," Vuorenmaa says.
If allergy sufferers do not have a doctor's prescription, over-the-counter remedies often work very well, she says.
"If they don't, it may be time to visit a physician to see if there are other steps you can take. It is important for people with allergy symptoms to take medications, because not treating the symptoms could lead to the development of asthma," she says.
If people are apprehensive about using medication, Vuorenmaa suggests the use of a nasal irrigation device, commonly referred to as a neti pot, to clear up sinuses.