New Zealand about to be hit with a pollen explosion

Even though we're still in the thick of winter, an ailment associated with spring is just around the corner - hayfever.

New Zealand is about to be hit with a pollen explosion starting in the north and heading south a few weeks later.

According to MetService's pollen forecaster the yearly pine pollen release could be near.

"It's on the early side - sometimes it doesn't start until mid-August," Dr David Fountain said.

"It starts at the top of the country, so Auckland, Northland, Waikato and down towards the volcanic plateau that will be starting in a week or two."

And he believes the South Island could be hit in about four weeks.

"It's the yellow dust that drops out of the air onto your car bonnets, onto windscreens."

Dr Fountain also said the amount of pine pollen set to be released is huge.

"Up to 500 million kgs of pollen produced from the New Zealand pine plantation population per year. It's massive."

More than 30 percent of New Zealanders have allergies with hayfever being the most common one.

"Airborne pollen comes in through our nasal passages. The tiny pollen settles in the soft tissue and when moisture is applied it releases its proteins. Our immune system overreacts," Allergy NZ CEO Mark Dixon told Newshub.

Hayfever causes a flurry of uncomfortable symptoms and New Zealand has one of the worst hayfever rates in the world.

Whilst there is currently only medicine to treat them, technology to improve those with pollen-related allergies is improving.

A 'pollen sensor' is the first of its kind in Australasia. The boxes are to be placed on top of buildings like hospitals and universities where they will use artificial intelligence to detect airborne allergens. It will be paired with an app that can send out key information.

"You can have an alert telling you 'hey you better take your antihistamine, maybe shut your window'," RespiTrak product manager Brent Sorensen told Newshub.

He also told Newshub that pollen is one of the most common causes of asthma attacks which has led to the need for sensors to be mounted on buildings for people to be able to control their symptoms.

"We are currently working with DHBs and any other organisations to mount our sensors on their buildings which will create a nationwide array and allow us to build a comprehensive picture of air quality in any region and at any given time of the day," Sorensen said.

So while pine pollen is preparing for its annual drop there is some slight relief - it's considered a weaker allergen than grass pollen which starts later in the year.