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Online Trends

Published April 5th 2019

Pollen is Coming: An Analysis of Conversations Around Hay Fever

Who hasn’t experienced a bit of a tingle in their nose? A bit of a dryness in their throat? A bit of a stinging in their eyes? Hay fever is something most of us have experienced – but how do we talk about the symptoms and treatments online?

I, like many, experience allergies all year around, but you’ll often notice that your body is feeling way worse than in previous months. I always start to get worse in March, and as summer approaches I am afraid of what is still to come this year.

This got me thinking: I can’t be the only one who is experiencing and complaining about hay fever, and I wanted to investigate further. Surely there are lessons that can be learned by studying how people discuss their allergies online.

Here are three things I discovered while delving into the data:

1. The times of year we complain

I went all the way back through the Brandwatch archive to 2014 to break down mentions of hay fever by month over four years.

As shown below, people suffer from hay fever (or related allergies) all year around – but there are clear peaks in the conversation between March and August.

To understand the hay fever conversation further, we can look at the types of pollen and when they are active active.

Combining the above and the below, we can see that there are far more individuals writing about experiencing hay fever between the grass and weed pollen season than there are in the tree pollen season.

Allergy season: When is each type of pollen active?

Type of pollen Season starts
Tree pollen Early March
Grass pollen May
Weed pollen July
Ragweed pollen Late August
Source: Womens' Health

2. How we prepare for an attack

Unexpectedly, search trends around hay fever tend to occur one month ahead of the peak pollen seasons. It seems that we are preparing for what is to come – sneezing attacks, runny noses, and itching eyes. We search for when the hayfever season is, what kind of pollen is flying about, and how to best combat our allergies for the months to come.

People seem to search for “hayfever” between April and May, ahead of the upcoming grass pollen season.

3. The ways we treat our symptoms

Nowadays when I speak to my family, friends, and colleagues, or even ask the internet about new remedies for certain symptoms I experience from my hay fever, I get various answers. Some say to take nasal spray for stinging eyes and my runny nose, others say to buy tablets, as that gets rid of everything. But I can’t ask everyone in the world to provide me with their remedies.

I segmented the data of everyone talking about experiencing hay fever into the various symptoms they discuss and the related medications.

I found that sneezing is talked about the most (making up 64% of the conversation around symptoms we categorized), and that the most common remedy for all symptoms are tablets (61%). Interestingly, it looks as if individuals experience itching eyes and runny noses at the same time, and will use nasal spray for both.

While nasal spray does not seem to be very effective for sneezing, this seems to be helping many individuals with their nose and eye afflictions.

What can this data be used for?

Knowing how people talk about their experiences with hay fever can help pharma companies tailor their communications to speak directly to our needs and pain points. Combining search, social, sales, and pollen data, it gets easier to plan out the rhythm of advertisements, messaging and ways of connecting.

Finally, looking at today’s date and the charts above I’m obliged to warn you to brace yourselves – more pollen is coming.

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