The forest pollen plague has begun its annual allergic yet picturesque, even colourful, sweep of Hawke's Bay.

Last Thursday the haze was clearly visible as the westerlies got to work, while the yellow dispersal was evident in the light coating over cars and vans parked in the open, and along gutters in the streets after the wash-through of the previous day's rain.

It causes sometimes severe allergic reactions, including hay fever, and also those which trigger asthma, but Hawke's Bay Hospital's emergency department and general practitioners reported no sudden surges in patient numbers directly attributable to the problem.

Chemists had, however, detected a small seasonal increase in demand for antihistamine products to combat allergies, although symptoms, such as sneezing, are sometimes almost immediate.

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Keeping windows closed at night and minimising outdoor morning activity (from before dawn to mid-morning) are among recommendations for people to try to avoid pine and other pollen in the air, while other actions to minimise general plant pollen effects include ensuring lawns are mowed frequently to avoid flowering, and disposal of garden debris from closer proximity to homes.

If travelling, motorists are advised to keep vehicle windows closed at the height of the pollen seasons, and, with air conditioning, to use "recirculate" modes rather than having air drawn in from outside.