The Hay Fever Capitals of the UK
If you’re reading this with itchy eyes and a runny nose, you may feel that where you live is the hay fever “capital” of the UK.
Like the 20% of the UK population who suffer from hay fever, you might dread the spring and summer months thanks to increased pollen counts.
Each year there are media claims that symptoms will be the worst yet due to a longer pollen season and higher pollen intensity, making the side effects of allergies feel much worse.
So where and who in the UK suffers the most from hay fever? Chemist4U has analysed three years of NHS antihistamine prescription data, sales data of hay fever products, as well as geo-located Tweets, to discover where the UK’s hay fever capital might be.
Where are people prescribed the most antihistamines in the UK?
Taking antihistamines to combat the symptoms of hay fever is usually a sufferer’s first-line approach. The NHS website recommends taking antihistamines for at least three months before allergy season begins to build up immunity and lessen a reaction.
In order to find where in the UK Brits are seeking medical intervention for hay fever relief, Chemist4U analysed three years of antihistamine prescription data from February 2018 to January 2022, matched to the provider's postcode according to NHS records.
Taking the three year average of antihistamine prescriptions in each local authority, Chemist4U then calculated how many prescriptions are given per 100 people.
The data revealed that residents in Bridgend, Wales, have been prescribed the most amount of antihistamines, where for every 100 people, 95.8 antihistamines have been prescribed, on average, over the last three years.
This is followed by Torfaen, also in Wales, wherein every 100 residents, 54.3 antihistamines, on average, were prescribed over the last three years.
In joint third place, are East Lindsey, East Midlands, and Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, where over half (50.5) of antihistamines have been prescribed for every 100 people.
With locations in Wales dominating the top three hotspots for hay fever medications, this suggests that those in Wales are suffering to a point where they are seeking professional intervention the most.
These prescription records also suggest that pollen counts might be higher and more intense within Wales than in other parts of the UK.
Which month does each UK region order the most hay fever products?
According to the Met Office, tree pollen occurs first, typically from late March to mid-May, and affects around 25% of people.
Most people are allergic to grass pollen (which actually has two peaks) and the season lasts from mid-May until July.
Weed pollen can be released at any time but the season typically covers the end of June to September.
However, depending on where you live in the UK, the hay fever season will start at different times throughout the year.
To gain an understanding of hay fever seasonality and when Brits are struggling with their symptoms, Chemist4U looked at sales data of their hay fever products (including hay fever tablets, hay fever nasal sprays and eye drops) to see the biggest peak in purchases.
Interestingly, all of England’s regions purchased the most hay fever products in June. However, Wales and Scotland do not follow this seasonality, with those in Wales having two peaks – April and June – suggesting that, in line with the Met Office’s pollen seasons, tree pollen is aggravating allergies in Wales in April and grass pollen is hitting sufferers in June.
In Scotland, July saw the highest sales of hay fever products, suggesting that grass pollen is aggravating allergies for sufferers the most.
Which city tweets the most about hay fever?
The Twittersphere is the perfect environment to gather sentiment towards things, including people, places and coincidentally, seasonal allergies.
To find out which city Tweets the most about hay fever, Chemist4U used Twitter’s API to collect over 100,000 tweets containing the phrase "hay fever" and the #hayfever hashtag from the 1st Jan 2021 to 14 Apr 2022 and determined the location of the user via a geotag attached.
This analysis revealed that per 100,000 people, those in Manchester tweet the most about hay fever.
The second city that publicly suffers the most from hay fever is Cambridge, with 85 tweets per 100,000 people being shared on the subject.
And in third place, the twitter analysis revealed that Lincoln could be another hay fever top spot with 83 tweets per 100,000 people being shared about pollen allergies.
When do tweets about hay fever peak?
The Twitter analysis across 2021 up until April 2022 revealed the exact day that hay fever Tweets peak in the UK.
The analysis revealed that on the 17th of June last year, the most amount of tweets were shared about hay fever. In fact, 1.34% of all UK tweets on that particular day were about hay fever.
This conveys that the middle of June could be the peak of hay fever season, where Brits are feeling the full intensity of their pollen allergy.
Antihistamines prescription data: 3 years of prescription data from Feb 2018 to Jan 2022 was analysed. Each prescription record contains data about the provider - which included or was matched to the provider's postcode according to NHS records. This data was filtered to prescriptions matching the names of antihistamines listed by the NHS website. Using ONS geographic data this was then mapped to region, local authority and county (England only). We are making the assumption that antihistamine prescriptions are for hay fever and one prescription is per adult in each location. Chemist4U then used local authority population data to work out how many antihistamine prescriptions had been administered for every 100 people in that location over a three-year average.
Hay fever tweets from each city: Using Twitter API over 100,00 tweets containing the phrase "hay fever" and #hayfever were collected for the period from 1st Jan 2021 to 14 Apr 2022. Tweet locations were determined either via a geotag attached to the tweet or the location of the user who posted it. Locations were parsed and geo-referenced to country and city (where possible) using Geocoder by Local Focus and Google's Geocoding API, resulting in ≈22,000 tweets georeferenced to the UK.
You can find a full set of the data here.