Met Office says very high pollen levels will remain with Asthma UK warning asthmatics with hay fever to take precautions
Extremely high pollen levels will remain this week as a 'pollen bomb' continues to cause misery for hay fever sufferers – with one charity warning of a 'toxic cocktail' for asthmatics if the predicted wet weather arrives.
Weather forecasts are warning of very high pollen levels today (Tuesday) and tomorrow, before they dip slightly when rain and intense thunderstorms are expected, ahead of another sharp rise again at the end of this week.
Grass pollen is now in peak season, says the Met Office, and levels have been sky-rocketing since the weekend's heatwave.
Red, sore, watery, itchy eyes, a runny or blocked nose, sneezing and coughing are all symptoms for allergy sufferers – while those with hayfever and asthma may also notice shortness of breath and wheezing. Asthma UK says around 95 per cent of people’s hay fever is triggered by the current grass pollen, which tends to be highest between mid-May and July.
But the charity is today warning of a 'toxic cocktail' of high pollen levels, warm weather and thunderstorms, which could pose a triple threat for people with asthma and puts them at greater risk, it says, of having a life-threatening attack.
Jessica Kirby, head of health advice at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: "Over three million people with asthma are affected by pollen, which can inflame their airways and trigger their asthma symptoms. Stormy weather can make this even worse, as it breaks the pollen into much smaller particles, which are then inhaled more deeply into the lungs.
“People who have asthma that is triggered by pollen should take their preventer inhaler every day, as prescribed, alongside their usual hay fever medicines, to reduce the risk of hay fever triggering an asthma attack. This reduces sensitivity and swelling in the airways, helping to prevent asthma symptoms such as wheezing and coughing before they even start."
It is thought pollen levels could be particularly high at the moment because a wet May, followed by the dry, hot, sunny weather of the past two weeks, has caused more grasses to flower at once leading to an explosion in the pollen levels.
Alongside very high grass pollen levels, Met Office forecasts for London and South East England also warn of lots of weed pollen, mainly caused by nettles.
A classification of very high – the highest pollen alert level the Met Office can forecast – is listed for today, Wednesday and Saturday with levels on Thursday and Friday only reducing to high or medium. And it seems if the nice weather continues, there is likely to be very little let-up for those who are suffering.
A Met Office spokesman said: "The high/very high levels are what we would expect for this phase in the grass pollen season, given the dry, warm weather.
"Grass pollen levels have been moderately high in central and southern regions but as more grasses came into flower with the warm weather, the very high category of risk was reached.
"The very high risk could continue until late June/early July, provided the dry, sunny continues."
Experts recommend sufferers try and limit their exposure to pollen where possible. This could include keeping doors and windows closed, not drying clothes and bedding outside where they can be re-coated in pollen and taking over-the-counter remedies to help relieve symptoms. Some hay fever sufferers also suggest regularly eating honey produced in your local area, but there is little scientific evidence so far to support the theory.
Vaseline around the nostrils to trap pollen, using wraparound sunglasses to keep it away from eyes, showering after being outside and cleaning surfaces with a damp cloth and using a vacuum on carpets and furniture can also help to make life more bearable, says NHS advice.
While Asthma UK advises asthmatics to carry their reliever inhaler – normally a blue colour – every day when out and about while also 'blitzing' hay fever symptoms with antihistamines and/or a steroid nasal spray. More advice can be found at www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/pollen