German word of the day: Der Heuschnupfen

Springtime in Germany is just around the corner. As well as more sunlight it brings about buds of new flowers, pollen and, as a result: Heuschnupfen.

German word of the day: Der Heuschnupfen
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

What is Heuschnupfen?

Der Heuschnupfen – literally “hay cold” – is an allergy against pollen, most commonly that of grass pollen, which we know as hay fever.

In total, an estimated 12 million Germans suffer from hay fever every year – with children and adolescents the most acutely affected.

The most common symptoms include itchy eyes, runny nose and continual sneezing, as well as migraines in extreme cases. Those affected often complain of burning eyes and sometimes a burning sensation in the throat.

When do you experience Heuschnupfen in Germany?

Unfortunately, spring isn’t the only time hay fever sufferers are at risk – the late flowering plant ragweed blooms in Germany during the autumn season and causes similar symptoms to hay fever. 

Pollen allergies are both seasonal and regional: Germany’s warmer regions experience pollen much earlier than in the coastal or mountain regions. 

Plus, contrary to what you may believe, studies show that city dwellers are more frequently affected by pollen allergies in Germany than people from the countryside. Some scientists put it down to the fine dust pollution, which generally makes the nasal mucous membranes more sensitive. However, there is generally more pollen in the countryside air, with stronger allergic reactions occurring here.

A person sneezing.

Spring can be a difficult time for hay fever sufferers. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ | Dr. Jacobs Institut

How to cure Heuschnupfen?

There are many different types of treatments to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever, with the most popular being antihistamines, which can be bought in your local Apotheke (pharmacy). 

Other non-medical remedies include nettle or ginger tea, citrus fruits, honey and elderflower juice.

Some habits that could further help are showering before bed, regular changing and washing of clothes, and, Germany’s favourite, lüften (ventilating/airing out a room) – although only at night, when pollen levels are at their lowest.

More Heuschnupfen for Germany to come

In recent years, due to high spring temperatures, Germany has experienced the highest levels of pollen in the air since the 1980’s. Experts warn that climate change will only worsen this trend, as higher temperatures allow plants to bloom earlier and higher concentrations of carbon dioxide can increase pollen production. 

And with dry, warm days ahead for Germany, those who typically suffer from Heuschnupfen may have to prepare for an allergy filled season.


Jedes Frühjahr leide ich an Heuschnupfen.

Every spring I suffer from hay fever.

Ich habe das Gefühl, dass dieses Jahr besonders viele Pollen in der Luft sind, denn mein Heuschnupfen ist besonders schlimm.

I feel like there is a lot of pollen in the air this year because my hay fever is particularly bad.

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German word of the day: Lüften

One of the first lessons you learn when living in Germany is that airing out rooms is extremely important.

German word of the day: Lüften

Whether you sublet, rent a flat or own your home in Germany, it’s likely you’ve been told how important it is to lüften, or open your windows and let air in and out regularly. 

Lüften can be a verb or noun in Germany. As a noun it uses the ‘das’ article and stands for ventilation. The verb lüften means to air out something. It comes from the German word die Luft which means air.

The proper airing out of rooms is a very German thing. Hell, it’s a way of life. 

Just check your rent contract. Foreigners in Germany are often surprised to find that ventilating their homes is usually written into their contract and accompanied by instructions. That means it’s literally legally binding! 

There are very important rules to remember, and German even has a set of vocabulary dedicated to getting fresh air safely in and out the room. 

Words like Stoßlüften – which translates to shock or impact ventilation. This is needed at least twice a day (and more in summer) and involves opening the windows or balcony doors wide to let a ‘shock’ of cold air in. According to experts, you should do this for about five minutes a time in winter, 10-15 minutes each time in autumn and spring, and up to half an hour in summer.

Meanwhile, Querlüften or cross ventilation involves opening all the windows of a house or building and letting the fresh air flow through.

The aim of all this lüften is to stop mould from forming, get rid of smells and to stop rooms from getting too humid. The more people that live in your home, the more airing out you’ll have to do. 

Germans recommend that you turn off your heating while airing out your room (to save on money and to protect the climate) – so be sure to have a big jumper on if you’re airing out in winter. 

READ ALSO: Why Germans are obsessed with the art of airing out a room

Lüften took on a whole new meaning in the pandemic as other countries – or at least those that didn’t have the same culture for airing out – began recommending it to people as a way of helping protect against Covid-19 transmission.  

A good German habit

Lüften can quickly become a habit. Whereas before Germany, I was happy to leave a window tilted open for a while to get some fresh air, I’m now obsessed with the proper way to do it. 

I throw open the windows of my flat wide at regular intervals to get that fresh air circulating, even in the dead of winter. When I’m at home in Scotland or on holiday somewhere else, I do the same thing, which can be alarming to people who think you are trying to freeze them.

I find myself feeling pleased when the neighbours across the road from my Berlin flat open their windows or balcony doors wide. It’s like we’re all part of the secret society of fresh air.

There is nothing now that stands between me and Lüften. When I tweeted about this habit, lots of people said they felt a similar way. 

One Twitter user said: “Been telling my family this for years – as they shiver and complain about how cold it is, and my partner and I passive-aggressively follow each other around shutting and reopening windows. Makes for fun times.”

Another said: “My little sister spent an exchange year in Germany before me and when I visited was thoroughly disturbed by her obsessive window opening. A couple years later I was living in Germany and had become a convert, too.”


Hey Karl, Kannst du bitte dein Zimmer lüften?

Hey Karl, can you please air out your room?

In Deutschland muss man die Zimmer richtig lüften.

You really have to air out rooms the right way in Germany.