Spring allergies seem to be lasting longer every year, with more and more Koreans having reactions to pollen released from trees.
According to the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Services this week, the number of patients with allergies, many of them pollen-related, rose by 15 percent from 2013 to nearly 7 million in 2017.
Those who specifically have hay fever make up about 17 percent of adults with allergies and 37 percent of teens, according to Korea's weather agency this month.
Experts say hay fever has become increasingly prevalent in densely-populated cities, and that symptoms are lasting longer due to global warming.
"As temperatures rise, trees and plants grow better and flowers blossom earlier too. So the period of exposure to pollen also lengthens. So, recently, we've seen a growing number of patients who suffer from hay fever."
Allergic reactions are triggered when grains of pollen make contact with the eyes or enter deep inside the nose.
This activates your immune system, causing the release of a chemical called histamine.
Histamine can cause swelling, rashes, itchy eyes, runny noses and sneezing. Severe symptoms include headaches, excessive tiredness, and worsening of asthma.
Researchers say around 13 types of trees on the peninsula release allergy-triggering pollen.
The worst offenders are oak trees, pine trees and alder trees, with pollen count peaking between April and May.
Hay fever is usually treated with antihistamine which can be bought over the counter.
More serious cases can be treated with immunotherapy.
Also, health experts recommend staying indoors during the peak hours of pollen activity, between 5 and 10 am, and wearing sunglasses and a mask if you have to venture outdoors.
But the best course of action is to consult a doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Oh Soo-young, Arirang News.