Millions of asthmatics are at risk of potentially fatal attacks this weekend, experts warn.
‘Very high’ pollen levels are expected in many parts of the UK as temperatures hit highs of 30°C.
According to Asthma + Lung UK, the warm weather conditions put people with asthma and other breathing conditions at a higher risk of developing life-threatening reactions.
This can be as mild as shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing or, in the worst cases, hospitalization or a fatal seizure.
Emma Rubach, the charity’s head of health advice, said: “High levels of pollen can be very dangerous for people with conditions like asthma, producing serious symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath.”
“They can trigger asthma attacks, which can be terrifying and make them unable to breathe.
“It can be fatal and in the UK around four people are already dying from an asthma attack every day.”
“People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can find themselves feeling much more breathless than usual and produce more or stickier mucus, which may require hospital treatment.”
Those suffering should stay indoors if possible, make sure they use their preventive inhaler as directed, and carry their device with them at all times.
“Treating hay fever symptoms with antihistamine pills and a steroid nasal spray can also help stop an allergic reaction to pollen and prevent the already sensitive airways from becoming even more inflamed,” she added.
Emma urged people to look out for warning signs that hay fever could be affecting their lungs.
“These include shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing or coughing,” she said.
“But there are simple steps you can take now to protect yourself.”
“However, if the symptoms clearly worsen, we recommend that you make an urgent appointment with your GP or healthcare professional.”
Pollen is a major trigger for nearly half of the population with asthma and a quarter of people with COPD.
This means that people’s airways are narrowed and inflamed.
Also, if you’re allergic to pollen and breathing it in, it can cause the muscles around your airways to tighten even further.
The mucous membrane can then become swollen and inflamed, causing sticky mucus to build up and making it difficult to breathe.
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
Hay fever is a common allergic condition. Up to one in five people will be affected at some point in their lives.
If you are allergic to pollen, you will experience hay fever symptoms.
Symptoms of hay fever include:
- frequent sneezing
- runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy, red, or watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
- an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
- Cough caused by postnasal drip (mucus dripping from the bridge of the nose into the throat)
Less commonly, the following may also occur:
- the loss of your sense of smell (anosmia)
- facial pain (caused by blocked sinuses)
- tiredness and exhaustion
If you have asthma, hay fever may make your asthma symptoms worse.
More than five million people in the UK suffer from asthma and over 1.3 million are living with a diagnosis of COPD – an umbrella term for a group of lung diseases that make it difficult to breathe.
Overall, over 38 percent of all people with lung diseases are triggered by pollen.
The Met Office issued warnings of “very high” pollen levels in Yorkshire and Humberside, the North West, the West Midlands, Wales, East England, the South West and London and South East England today and early next week.
In Scotland, scores are ‘high’ in the Dumfries and Galloway and Lothian Borders and Highlands and Eilean Siar, while scores in Northern Ireland are also ranked as high.
Grass pollen is the most common trigger of hay fever, affecting around 95 percent of people with the allergic reaction.
Values are often at their highest between mid-May and July.
Statistics show that when grass pollen levels are high, the number of asthmatics requiring hospital treatment for their symptoms increases.
There is also evidence that there is a link between high grass pollen levels and increased rates of COPD hospitalizations.
During the hot spell, Asthma + Lung UK advises people sensitive to pollen to:
- Check weather, pollen and pollution forecasts
- Use a preventive inhaler (if you have one) as directed.
- Carry a rescue inhaler (usually blue).
- Use a steroid nasal spray every day
- Take antihistamine pills that don’t make you drowsy
- Avoid the heat if possible
- Keep away from the sun
- Use a fan
- Train sensibly
- Drink cold water
- Keep your home cool
- Take cool baths or showers
- Eat as usual
Other health problems that are at increased risk in high temperatures include heart problems, kidney disease, diabetes and neurological disorders.
dr Natasha Fernando, MBBS, MRCGP – Head of Clinical Excellence at Medichecks, said, “High temperatures can put additional stress on the cardiovascular system, leading to an increased risk of heart-related complications in people with heart conditions such as heart disease or congestion. Congestive heart failure, high blood pressure or a history of stroke.
“People with kidney disease are at greater risk of the damaging effects of dehydration and electrolyte imbalances during a heat wave.
“In people with diabetes, high temperature and dehydration can affect glycemic control and impact overall diabetes management.
“And heat can impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature in people with certain neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease or autonomic dysregulation disorders.
“These individuals may be more sensitive to heat and therefore at higher risk for heat-related complications.”