HAYFEVER season has started three weeks early, experts are warning.
That means that 18 million Brits could see their Easter bank holidays ruined by runny noses and itchy eyes.
It’s all thanks to the unusually warm winter, which saw temperatures soaring to highs of 21’C.
Birch tree pollen – which affects one in four hayfever sufferers – is already being released across the country.
Allergy expert Dr Jean Emberlin said: “When you get warmth like that in winter, it gives the trees a real push to open up and start releasing pollen.
“We had some bad weather at the beginning of March which temporarily put a halt to it or we could have seen a very, very early birch pollen season.”
‘The perfect storm’
Dr Emberlin warned that if we get a spell of dry and windy weather, that could see the “perfect storm” for pollen to be released in the air over Easter.
And it’s not just rural sufferers that could see their breaks ruined.
She said that cities could be just as badly hit – if not more so, because there are loads of birch trees in parks, gardens and on streets.
And hayfever is often made worse by air pollution.
Hayfever is getting worse
Usually, birch pollen is only released into the air for around four weeks every year.
A third of sufferers say that their hayfever has gotten worse in recent years.
We predicted that hayfever season would start a lot earlier this year back in February.
A premature spell of dry, sunny, warm weather can bring hayfever season forward – extending the months of irritable misery suffered by thousands.
Everything is getting earlier
“We are likely to see an early start to the birch pollen season, which affects around 25 per cent of hayfever sufferers in the spring,” hayfever expert and pollen forecaster, Dr Beverley Adams-Groom told The Sun.
“The season usually starts in early April but could start in mid-to-late March this year.
“The grass pollen season (usually starting in late May/early June) could be on the early side too but it’s too soon to say because it’s the weather in late March and April that mainly affects it.”
But it’s not just the inconvenient sneezing that’s the issue.
Asthma sufferes need to take extra care
Hayfever is a problem for around 80 per cent of people with asthma, with many not knowing that trees start releasing their pollen at this time of the year.
“A pollen allergy can cause winter hayfever, triggering asthma symptoms such as wheezing or a tight chest that could develop into a full-blown asthma attack,” Sonia Munde, Head of Services at Asthma UK, told The Sun.
“People with asthma might assume their blocked nose and sneezing is caused by common cold but it could be tree pollen at this time of year.
How to deal with hay fever
Specsavers clinical spokesperson, Dr Nigel Best says: “Hay fever sufferers who wear contact lenses may notice the vision through their lenses can appear smeary and eyes can generally feel uncomfortable.
“However, there are some things contact lens wearers can try to help reduce the irritation.
Use drops or ditch the contact lenses
“Contact lens-friendly eye drops can help to calm down any itchiness and wearing prescription glasses (particularly wraparound sunglasses) can prevent pollen from getting into your eyes.
“Those suffering with hay fever could also try daily disposable lenses during the summer months.”
Dr Best also recommends: ‘While it’s not always possible, staying inside when pollen count is high will help to avoid irritation or showering and changing your clothes when you get home will also help to remove pollen from skin and hair.’
But, it is not just eyes which are affected, hay fever can also cause your ears to become itchy or inflamed.
Specsavers’ chief audiologist Gordon Harrison says: “Allergic reactions can cause the outer ear to itch or swell.
“The middle ear contains the Eustachian tube, which acts as a drainage tube, but when mucus clogs the middle ear it affects that drainage. This leads to a build-up in pressure, which can cause discomfort, popping in the ears or earache.
“To avoid irritation, try putting Vaseline around the nose to trap pollen, vacuum and dust regularly or you can try over the counter pain relief.
Shower and change clothes often
Showering and changing after being outside will help remove pollen and antihistamines decongestants can help relieve symptoms.
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“If you know you have a pollen allergy as well as asthma, it is essential you take your preventer medicines as prescribed, as it will prevent your airways from becoming inflamed which means you’ll be less likely to have an asthma attack if you come into contact with pollen.
“You should also take your hayfever medicines, such as nasal steroid sprays and antihistamines, which will help keep your hayfever symptoms at bay.
“Keep your blue reliever inhaler with you at all times in case of an emergency.”
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