Time now for our "Life & Info" segment where we focus on information useful for your everyday life.
We're now at the peak of Spring in South Korea, with flowers in full bloom and generally pleasant weather.
But for those who suffer from hay fever, it can be one of the most uncomfortable times of the year.
We have our Oh Soo-young in the studio to talk about what causes springtime allergies and how to deal with the symptoms.
So Soo-young. Today's issue is one that's rather personal for you, isn't?
That's right, Mark. I'm among the growing number of South Koreans who suffer from hay fever-- around 17 percent of the population, according to health authorities.
I've had hay fever since I was ten, and it always comes in Spring, around this time.
There are around three periods during the year when you get hay fever. If you are affected in Spring, it means you're allergic to pollen from trees. In Summer, it's pollen that's released by grass, and if you get symptoms around early fall, the pollen comes from weeds.
I'm lucky, I guess becuase I've never suffered hay fever in my life, but I hear it's horrible. So how exactly does pollen trigger allergic reactions?
Well, basically, once pollen comes into contact with your eyes or lands deep inside your nose or airways -- the pollen's outer coat can burst, releasing allergenic proteins.
This activates the mast cells which are your immune system's first line of defense. They release a strong chemical called histamine, which causes swelling of blood vessels, itchy eyes, a runny nose and lots of sneezing. For severe cases of hay fever, the symptoms can be much worse, leading to headaches, earaches, excessive tiredness, and worsening of asthma.
It's your body reacting to fight off the foreign substance -- in this case, pollen -- which is actually harmless.
So you can think of it as a false alarm. A highly irritating one.
And for you, this only happens around Spring. Well, Spring came earlier this year, so I assume that's rather unfortunate for hay fever sufferers?
Yes. According to Professor Cho Seok-hyun of Hanyang University Seoul Hospital, changes in the weather certainly can impact people with seasonal allergies.
"As temperatures rise, trees and plants grow stronger and flowers blossom earlier too. So the period of exposure to pollen gets longer. So, recently, we've seen a growing number of patients suffering from hay fever."
So for those of our viewers who get hay fever in spring which trees should they look out for and avoid if possible?
Well, researchers say there are around 13 types of trees on the peninsula that release pollen which cause allergies. The worst offenders are oak trees, which make up about one third of the country's greenery. The pollen from oak trees start to spread from the end of February and the amount of pollen peaks between April and May.
Pine trees and alder trees also release pollen that triggers hay fever. Gingko trees were also on the list so it's not just the pungent smell you should watch out for.
You can actually check whether pollen levels are high in your city or province on the link provided here, as well as a forecast of the next two days. The stronger the color, the higher the pollen count.
That's good to know. Well, what about some ways sufferers can reduce the symptoms? You can't avoid trees forever.
Well, there's some over-the-counter medication that could help.
So oral drugs that contain antihistamine suppress your allergic reaction to pollen. I take it myself and find it effective. But if you are pregnant or taking any other medication you should check the precautions before taking antihistamines.
There are also nasal sprays and eye drops that you could use.
If your symptoms are extremely severe, you could also consider immunotherapy which involves exposing increasing doses of pollen to your body so that you don't react as strongly to it.
The best course of action is to consult a doctor to find out exactly which type of tree pollen you're allergic to and map out a treatment plan that works best for you.
But if you don't have medicine at home, are there any ways you can prevent or ease hay fever symptoms?
Well, there are some guidelines offered by doctors and health professionals.
You could avoid going out between 5am to 10am. That's when pollen counts are at their highest, and you should take medicine, if you have it, about half an hour before you go outdoors.
Doctors also advise you wear sunglasses and a mask, and also apply a dab of Vaseline inside your nostrils to trap the pollen before it gets further into your system.
Once you return home, or go indoors, you should wash your face with soap. Personally, I've found this helps a lot with itchy eyes.
Or, you can put a hot towel over your head, or some warm teabags over your eyes to soothe the symptoms.
Adjusting your diet could also help. There are some foods you should actively avoid during this season, as they are prone to triggering allergic reactions.
The list mostly includes fermented or aged foods like Kimchi, cheese, yeast-based products, as well as beverages. So that means you shouldn't drink alcohol.
You also want to avoid sweet or savoury food -- anything with preservatives or flavouring.
And bad news for vegans and brunch-loving hipsters, avocados are also on the list. So, if you suffer from hay fever, you shouldn't have those fancy smashed avocado toasts.
I've never been a fan of avocado so I guess I'll be ok. I hear almond milk is another "no-no."
That's right. Soy products are also off limits, so no soy lattes either.
Instead, you should aim to have fresh, unprocessed food, if possible.
Experts recommend apples, broccoli, potatoes and oily fish like salmon or mackerel.
Well, I think this can be a good guideline for those who suffer from similar dust related allergies too.
Right, as they trigger the same chemical reaction.
Thank you for your report today Soo-young.
Thanks for having me.