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The hidden costs of pollen allergies: how pollen data can revolutionize healthcare systems

Pollen is tiny grains produced by plants for reproduction purposes. Often underestimated, these particles have a significant impact on our health, especially for allergic individuals. Continuously increasing, the healthcare costs of pollen allergies represent an economic burden for global healthcare systems.

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The healthcare costs of pollen allergies for healthcare systems
The rise of allergies in urban environments
The crucial role of pollen data in public health protection
Pollen API data from Meersens

The healthcare costs of pollen allergies for healthcare systems

Every year, millions of people face the unwelcome return of seasonal rhinitis: according to the World Allergy Organization, this affects about 30% of the global population. Symptoms of pollen allergy can include frequent sneezing, itching in the nose, watery eyes, and nasal congestion, often disrupting daily life and quality of life.

💡 Good to know: Pollen allergies can occur at any age, and it is estimated that by 2050, 50% of the global population will suffer from pollen allergies.

The effects of climate change and increased carbon dioxide concentration lead to earlier pollen seasons and increased pollen production by plants, respectively, exacerbating allergy symptoms, ranging from mild discomfort to severe respiratory distress.

These pollen allergies can result in doctor visits, expensive medications (direct healthcare expenses), and even missed days of work (indirect healthcare expenses). They have become a major health issue worldwide.

The cost of pollen allergies has been exponentially increasing since the 1970s and is estimated at 130 billion euros per year in Europe alone.

Furthermore, pollen allergies (or hay fever) can sometimes worsen other health conditions, such as asthma, thereby requiring additional treatments and more intensive care. All of this translates into higher insurance premiums for individuals with seasonal allergies, as well as for the entire population.

💡 Good to know: Today in France, it is estimated that 3 million people are affected by asthma due to pollen or spore (mold) allergies.

The rise of allergies in urban environments

By 2050, it is predicted that over 70% of the world’s population will live in urban environments. While allergies were once mainly associated with rural settings, it is increasingly evident that city dwellers are also affected, and may even be more vulnerable. The reasons for this trend are manifold:

  • ☁️ Air pollution: Although urban areas have fewer pollen grains than rural areas, air pollution can make these pollen grains more aggressive. Substances like NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and SO3 (sulfur trioxide) damage pollen grains, releasing allergenic proteins that combine with fine particulate matter suspended in the air. This exacerbates allergic reactions, potentially leading to asthma, especially in cities.
  • ☀️ Heat islands: Urban areas generate “heat islands,” which are warmer than surrounding rural areas, promoting earlier and prolonged pollen production.
  • 🌳 Urban greening: Many cities choose to plant male trees, known as anemophilous trees, to avoid the dispersal of seeds, fruits, or pods in the streets. These trees, recognizable by their inconspicuous flowers, however, produce a large amount of pollen.

To mitigate these issues, it is necessary for cities to revise their urban planning. This includes limiting trees with high allergenic potential, such as birch and plane trees, and favoring plants with low or no allergenic potential, known as entomophilous plants, recognizable by their showy or highly fragrant flowers. The National Aerobiological Surveillance Network (R.N.S.A.) recommends opting for species such as lime, maple, cherry, or pear trees, which have low or non-existent allergenic potential.

Helathcare costs of pollen allergies: utilize pollen data API

The crucial role of pollen data in public health protection

Given this growing issue, pollen monitoring becomes essential for better understanding and managing risks related to allergic rhinitis. By collecting and analyzing data on pollen levels in the air, public health authorities or businesses can anticipate periods of high pollen concentration and take preventive measures to protect the population

Pollen data has enormous potential to improve health for all. By providing accurate information on the types (taxa) and concentrations of pollen present in the air, this data enables allergic individuals to better manage their symptoms and make informed decisions about their health.

Possible use cases:

Pollen data is used to anticipate seasonal demand for antiallergic medications, adjust production, and conduct targeted marketing communication. It can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of available treatments in studies and adapt their development as needed.

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Using pollen data to assess risks related to seasonal allergies and adjust premiums accordingly, thereby protecting their insured against associated medical costs.

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Monitoring pollen levels enables companies to implement preventive measures (alerts, telecommuting, etc.) to reduce absenteeism due to allergies among their employees, promoting a healthier and more productive work environment.

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Local authorities use pollen data to improve urban air quality by planning environmental management strategies to reduce the effects of pollen allergies and promote citizen well-being.

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Integrating pollen data into HVAC systems allows for automatic adjustment of air circulation and filtration, thereby improving indoor air quality and contributing to the well-being of occupants proactively.

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The pollen API data from Meersens

To address these challenges, access real-time, historical, and forecasted pollen counts with the Meersens Pollen API.

Meersens models pollen distribution by combining satellite imagery and proprietary models to predict and forecast tree, grass, and weed pollen concentrations (including ragweed…). The models are based on meteorological conditions (precipitation, humidity, temperature) and seasonality, which depend on the pollen species and location. These data are also combined with high-resolution vegetation distribution data to accurately assess pollen presence at a city scale and best prevent allergy risks.

With our Pollen Index-based pollen quantification process, you can easily understand the level of allergy risk, on a scale ranging from 1 to 5. The higher the score, the greater the pollen presence.


By collecting and analyzing data on pollen concentration in the air, it becomes possible to predict peak allergy periods and take appropriate preventive measures. With Meersens, anticipate allergy challenges with confidence and responsiveness.

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Pollen allergy cost: how pollen data revolutionize healthcare systems

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