Around 20 million of us are expected to be hit by hay fever in the coming weeks as pollen counts reach their highest levels in over a decade.

The Met Office said grass pollen levels will trigger reactions in many people not previously affected by hay fever due to recent warm weather and rainstorms.

It predicts dry weather in the coming days will lift pollen from grass, plants and trees to create the highest pollen levels since 2006.

Experts say the conditions will trigger reactions in those who have “latent hay fever”, those who record positive for the allergy but who only have a reaction when pollen counts are extremely high.

Record numbers are suffering from hay fever, which affects up to 26% of all adults and as many as 40% of children.

Research has shown that rates have trebled in 20 years. The Met Office has joined with the NHS to set up the UK’s first pollen-monitoring network. A joint research programme has identified 150 grass pollens that cause most allergies.

The Met Office’s Yolanda Clewlow said: “We know how seriously hay fever can impact people’s lives, particularly as a result of grass pollen. We aim to help empower sufferers in managing their symptoms more effectively.

‘We urge them to check our pollen forecast or to download our simple to use mobile app to receive notifications.”

Experts are unsure why hay fever, and other allergies, have been on the rise.

Some point to changing climate, lack of breast feeding and cleaner homes so infants do not come in to contact with protective bacteria in the first months.

Grass is the most common cause of hay fever, affecting 95% of UK sufferers.

Polling by the Met Office found that two-fifths affected suffer so badly it ruins their summer.

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