Meet Suffolk's own pollen counter

HAVE you woken up with the sniffles and watery eyes again this morning?You are not alone – around 25 per cent of people in the UK suffer with hayfever.

HAVE you woken up with the sniffles and watery eyes again this morning?

You are not alone – around 25 per cent of people in the UK suffer with hayfever.

At Ipswich Hospital a dedicated nurse has been rising extra early every morning since May to help count the pollen in this area to provide accurate reports for TV weather forecasts.

And what many sufferers will not be surprised to hear is that this year saw one of the highest pollen counts since records began in 1968.

Janette Bartle, an ear, nose and throat allergy nurse specialist, decided Ipswich should have its own pollen counting centre after attending an allergy conference and realising there were no centres in East Anglia further east than Cambridge.

She said: "They showed a map of where they all were and I just realised there was a gaping hole in East Anglia.

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"I thought that couldn't be good and decided that I'd like to set up a centre here."

A pollen-trap has now been mounted on the roof of the hospital's east wing and Mrs Bartle arrives at work by 6am every morning to count the day's collection.

The machine itself contains a wheel covered in a kind of sticky tape. Air is sucked in to the machine and the pollen grains then stick to the wheel.

Counting the pollen is a painstaking task, which involves preparing a slide to go under a microscope and then counting every individual grain by hand.

On some days there are as few as three or four but the highest recorded this summer was 503.

Mrs Bartle said: "It can be very long-winded sometimes and you need a great deal of patience. "That's why I try to get in early in the morning and do it before anyone else arrives."

The number of grains is logged and then converted in to the number of grains per cubic metre. This is then sent to the National Pollen Research Unit in Worcester – which is where all the equipment has been borrowed from.

The information they collect centrally is then used for the pollen counts shown on TV.

Mrs Bartle said: "We are one of 33 pollen counting centres across the country and it is only grass pollen we count as that is the most common allergen for most people.

"The grass pollen season started late this year due to the colder weather at the end of spring but it kicked in with a vengeance in June when centres across the country recorded the highest ever levels since monitoring began in 1968."

Mrs Bartle has good news for anyone suffering though.

She said: "The season is now coming towards an end. The numbers of grains are now declining so the worst should be over."

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