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HEALTH

Warm weather sparks early hay fever

Hay fever, which affects one in five Germans, has struck early this year as an unusually warm weekend kick-started pollen production, setting noses running and eyes watering weeks ahead of schedule.

Warm weather sparks early hay fever
Photo: DPA

Temperatures reached at least 20 degrees Celsius in many parts of the country last weekend – perfect conditions for birch trees to start releasing pollen, which is at its most irritating in the spring.

And as a string of sunny, breezy days are now expected, sufferers are unlikely to get relief any time soon as prolonged rainfall would be needed to stop birch trees in their tracks, meteorologist Jörg Riemann from the Berlin Meteogroup told Monday’s Die Welt newspaper.

“It’s far too warm for this time of year,” Riemann said. “The absolute upper limit for this time of year is 20 degrees, anymore shouldn’t be happening.”

Germany’s alder trees were almost ready to begin pumping out pollen at the beginning of the year due to an unusually warm January, but were stopped in their tracks by the extreme cold snap in February.

Birch pollen does not usually start triggering hay fever around the middle of April, giving a period of relief for sufferers in March, when Alder tree pollen has generally settled down.

“This will not happen this year,” Riemann told Die Welt.

Hay fever season is much longer than it was 25 years ago due to climate change, which has extended by 11 days the time in which enough birch pollen is in the air to cause an allergic reaction, since 1989. The itch-inducing pollen now swirls around for about 36 days of the year.

More than a third of Germans have some sort of allergy, and hay fever – a pollen allergy – is the most common according to recently published data by polling company Forsa.

Of the 1,000 people the polling organisation asked, more than half described their affliction as a burden.

DPA/The Local/jcw

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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