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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Doctors Measure the City's Hay Fever

It is the time of year when millions across the country start sneezing uncontrollably and suffer from watery eyes, a runny nose and headaches. Hay fever season is here.

This year, however, the estimated 2 million Muscovites who suffer from hay fever -- an allergic reaction caused mainly by the pollen from some blossoming trees and grasses -- may get a bit of relief.

Allergy doctors at the Health Ministry's Immunology Institute have teamed up with biology department researchers at Moscow State University to launch a program aimed at helping hay fever sufferers better monitor the levels of pollen in the air. By doing so, sufferers should have a clearer idea of when to avoid spending time outdoors or start taking antihistamine pills.

The university researchers are measuring the concentration of pollen and mold spores in the air with the aid of a trap on the roof of the university's meteorological observatory.

The trap sucks in airborne particles, which then stick to specially coated rods inside, said researcher Svetlana Polevova.

She and three other researchers regularly remove the rods, identify the pollen under a microscope and calculate the concentration of pollen grains and molds per cubic meter of air.

They then pass the counts to the doctors.

"The method helps us understand the dynamics of the blossoming and draw a more accurate treatment strategy," said Natalya Ilyina, the chief doctor at the Immunology Institute.

The measurements and recommendations are being posted on the web site, which is sponsored by the Danish pharmaceutical company Nycomed, manufacturer of a popular antihistamine medicine.

Ilyina said 15 percent of the Russian population suffers from seasonal allergies.

Some Muscovites only face allergies during the four to five weeks of spring when blossoms are dropping off birch trees. For others, spring is just the start. In June, the fluff starts flying off poplar trees and dandelions. Later, other grasses and plants start blossoming. In all, some 500 trees and other plants send their allergens into the air, Polevova said.

The university will operate the trap through to August, she said.

Ilyina said prevention is the best medicine against hay fever -- meaning keeping away from the sources of the allergy.

"However, not many of our patients can afford escaping from the city to a safer place until the blossoming is over," she said.

She advised those residents stuck in Moscow to keep their windows closed and avoid gardens.