MILLIONS of people with hay fever are being warned of a life-threatening complication.
The pollen count is set to soar over the rest of the week, already causing misery for those with an allergy.
It’s a particular risk for those who have asthma, as spores can cause havoc with their airways.
Allergies to pollen (hay fever), which affect an estimated 16 million Brits, can worsen asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
More than half of the 5.4 million people living with asthma in the UK (59 per cent) say pollen can trigger symptoms such as a tight chest, wheezing and breathlessness.
Asthma UK says a quarter of the estimated three million people living with COPD say the same.
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The leading charity warns the risk of a deadly asthma attack increases in line with pollen counts.
Around four people in the UK die from an asthma attack every day.
The Met Office is predicting “very high” pollen levels across England and Wales from today, continuing until Friday.
For most of Scotland, pollen counts will be mostly “high” today before easing up over the next couple of days to medium-high.
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Northern Ireland will have “high” counts for three days.
The Met Office said "grass and nettle pollen risk will rise substantially in warm weather" – as temperatures are set to hit 32C by Friday.
Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead for Asthma and Lung UK, said: “When pollen levels are at their highest this can be deadly for those with lung conditions like asthma who can suffer serious symptoms and have life-threatening attacks.
“These attacks can leave people fighting for breath, which can be terrifying, but there are things they can do to look after themselves.”
How to stay safe
The charity provides tips on how to reduce the risk of hay fever triggering an asthma attack.
1. Carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every day. You might also refer to this as your rescue inhaler.
These quickly relax the muscles in your airways and ease your asthma or COPD symptoms on the spot, so it’s important to carry your reliever inhaler with you.
2. Take any preventer or maintenance treatments every day, as prescribed. This will help prevent your lungs from reacting to pollen.
In asthma, this is even more crucial, as asthma preventer inhalers contain a low dose of steroid, which dampens down the inflammation that can be set off by pollen and other triggers.
3. Treat hay fever symptoms with antihistamine pills and sprays or a steroid nasal spray.
There are lots of different medicine options for hay fever. Your pharmacist can help you decide what to try.
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Other tips include staying indoors on high pollen days and keeping an eye on weather forecasts to check the forecast.
But if you are feeling wheezy, breathless, have a tight test, are coughing more than normal or are needing to use a reliever inhaler more than three times a week, you should see a GP.
What to do in an asthma attack
- Sit up straight – try to keep calm
- Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds up to 10 puffs
- If you feel worse at any point OR you don't feel better after 10 puffs call 999 for an ambulance
- Repeat step 2 after 15 minutes while you're waiting for an ambulance
Source: Asthma UK
You are having an asthma attack if you notice any of the following:
- Your reliever inhaler (usually blue) is not helping or lasting for four hours
- Your symptoms are getting worse – think coughing, breathlessness, wheezing, coughing at night or a tight chest
- You are too breathless to speak, eat or sleep, or it is difficult to do any of these things
- Your breathing is getting faster, and it feels like you can’t get your breath in properly
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