IT’S bad news for hay fever sufferers today, with pollen levels set to soar following the weekend’s heatwave.
The Met Office has issued warnings for “very high” pollen levels across England, reaching as far as Middlesborough.
It comes after a weekend of heatwave weather.
On Saturday, temperatures soared to 34’C in Middlesex, making it the hottest day of the year.
Hot weather really can make hay fever worse, with experts blaming an increase in first-time hay fever sufferers on last year’s extraordinarily hot, dry summer.
Experts say breathing in hot air can cause the airways to narrow, leading to coughing and shortness of breath.
Hot weather can also increase the amount of pollutants and mould in the air, which can cause asthma symptoms to flare up.
Dr Andy Whittamore, Clinical Lead for Asthma UK and a practising GP, said: “This swampy humid air could spell misery for people with asthma and even trigger a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
“Humidity can trap pollutants and allergens like pollen, mould, dust and smoke in the air, which then cause asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and a tight chest.
“If you have asthma and are already noticing more asthma symptoms such as coughing, a tight chest or breathlessness, make sure you keep your blue reliever inhaler with you at all times.
“Take hay fever medicines to help stop the allergic reaction, use your preventer inhaler (usually brown) as prescribed to reduce the inflammation in your airways.”Grass pollen season
It is thought that more than 10 million people in Britain suffer with hay fever – and it affects around 80 per cent of people with asthma.
Grass pollen is the most common allergy and affects 90 per cent of people with hay fever, according to Allergy UK.
The season runs from mid-May until July, with two peaks – usually the first two weeks of June and the first two weeks of July.
But this can vary depending on where you are in the country and how the weather has been during spring and early summer.
One million more people are buying hay fever remedies
An estimated 26 per cent of adults in the UK reported suffering from hay fever in 2017, according to research.
Last year that figure increased to 31 per cent with a million new people buying hay fever medicines and remedies for the first time.
The rise is believed to be due to changes in our climate
A “pollen bomb” has put more people at risk than ever, with experts saying that a concentration of lots of different types of pollen is triggering allergic reactions in people who have never suffered from hay fever before.
So, what can you do if you find your eyes suddenly itching?
5 ways to treat hay fever
There’s currently no cure for hay fever, but most people are able to relieve symptoms with treatment – to a certain extent.
1. Have more sex
Apparently, having sex can help to relieve symptoms of congestion.
Researchers at Tabriz Medical University in Iran suggested that getting frisky during pollen season could ease allergy-related symptoms such as sneezing.
According to their study, sex causes blood vessels in nasal passages to constrict helping to clear blocked noses and dry up runny eyes.
Max Wiseberg, airborne allergen expert and founder of HayMax barrier balms, said: “There is research which suggests that sex could help with the symptoms, so that may be something to consider although there may be some practical issues around timing and locations.
“However there is probably not a more pleasant way to deal with the symptoms of hay fever.”
The only downside is that the effects are thought to only affect guys who ejaculate – not women.
2. Avoid pollen
The most effective way to control hay fever is to avoid exposure to pollen.
Allergy UK says the best way to do this is to keep windows and doors closed when inside – especially early in the morning and evening when the pollen count is highest.
They also advise avoiding peak pollen times and wearing wraparound sunglasses and a hat to prevent pollen getting onto the face and in the eyes.
You should also avoid drying clothes on an outdoor washing line and shower when you get indoors to remove pollen from your skin and hair.
Antihistamines treat hay fever by blocking the action of the chemical histamine, which the body releases when it thinks it’s under attack from an allergen. This stops the symptoms of the allergic reaction.
Antihistamines are usually effective at treating itching, sneezing and watery eyes, but they may not help with clearing a blocked nose.
They’re available in tablet form and also as nasal sprays and eye drops.
Corticosteroids (steroids) are used to treat hay fever because they have an anti-inflammatory effect.
When pollen triggers your allergic reaction, the inside of your nose becomes inflamed.
Corticosteroids can reduce the inflammation and prevent the symptoms of hay fever.
5. Natural remedies
Many people are turning towards natural remedies rather than conventional medicine to alleviate symptoms.
Some try inhaling steam to clear congestion while others suggest drinking nettle tea – an anti-inflammatory.
She added: “Allergic reactions can cause symptoms in your nose, especially pollen allergies during hay fever season, which can cause nasal congestion.
“Allergies may also trigger symptoms of asthma, and can make breathing more difficult.
“If you are struggling with your breathing you should speak to your local pharmacist or GP for advice.
“Drug free therapy is a way of helping to treat symptoms without taking medication.
“It involves using natural techniques or products to alleviate your symptoms.
“This approach used on its own or combined with medication can be a more sustainable way of helping to manage your condition.”
3. Avoid polluted areas
Pollution can cause symptoms such as irritated airways, breathlessness and coughing.
Long term, high pollution levels can even lead to lung conditions including asthma and lung cancer.
Lloyds Pharmacy pharmacist Pareena Patel says: “You may be more at risk of pollution aggravating symptoms, if you have a long-term respiratory condition, and can help manage your symptoms by avoiding pollution hot spots and reducing or avoiding strenuous outdoor exercise.”
4. Speak to your pharmacist
If you’ve got any concerns about your asthma or know that summer can be triggering for your symptoms, it’s best to see a medical professional.
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Pareena says: “If you know that your asthma symptoms increase in the summer season or can be triggered by warm weather or hayfever, visit your local LloydsPharmacy and speak to your pharmacist who will be able to give advice on what the best treatment is tailored to you.
“LloydsPharmacy offer advice and information on medications you are currently taking, and can help with any questions you may have about your inhaler technique.
“You should also be attending an annual asthma review appointment with your GP or Asthma Nurse.”
Hay fever expert Dr Glennis Scadding gives her best advice for beating symptoms