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Asthma and Lung UK issues warning as weekend pollen levels are expected to be high and Piriton remains in short supply



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Rising pollen levels for this weekend has prompted a warning to hay fever and asthma sufferers.

While some hay fever medicines are in short supply, because of a shortage of a vital ingredient, there are concerns that the upcoming dry warm weather could prove problematic.

Stocks of chlorphenamine maleate, the active ingredient in brands such as Piriton, have been affected which has led to a shortage of the medicine that can also be used to treat other allergic reactions.

Some anti-histamines are out of stock because of a shortage of ingredients
Some anti-histamines are out of stock because of a shortage of ingredients

But with grass pollen levels - the most common hay fever trigger - on the increase between May and July and the forecast for the next few days warming up Asthma and Lung UK is warning people to take extra care.

Streaming, itchy eyes, sneezing, tiredness, a blocked nose and sometimes wheezing or breathing difficulties can all be symptoms of an allergic reaction to pollen as the body mounts a reaction to the foreign invader and releases a chemical called histamine.

Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead director 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."

Using preventer inhalers as prescribed, says Dr Whittamore, will sensitivity and swelling in the airways, helping to prevent symptoms such as wheezing and coughing before they start.

He added: “We also advise people to carry their reliever inhalers every day, especially when they are out and about enjoying the sunshine in case pollen does cause a flare-up of their symptoms. Reliever inhalers quickly relax the muscles in the airways and ease symptoms immediately."

The charity also suggests people use a steroid nasal spray every day, together with non drowsy antihistamine tablets to stop the allergic reaction.

But with pollen levels expected to rise, and some anti-histamines on the high street now out of stock, what else can sufferers do?

People should carry their inhalers says the charity
People should carry their inhalers says the charity

Medication

Pharmacy chain Boots says only four out of around 90 products it sells are affected by the current shortages and it has a good availability of other items associated with treating hay fever.

These could be liquids or tablets with an alternative active ingredient alongside nasal sprays and eye drops designed to relieve irritation. Asthma and Lung UK is also advising sufferers to take extra care and ensure they are carrying all of their required medication.

Dry, warm weather can make allergies worse. Image: iStock.
Dry, warm weather can make allergies worse. Image: iStock.

Vaseline

Many sufferers claim rubbing Vaseline around your nostrils or across your cheek bones is the ultimate hack for hay fever. Designed to be the ultimate pollen catcher, dabbing it on your face can help create a balm barrier which traps the pollen before it's able to enter your system through your eyes or nose.

The method is also a popular one with parents trying to treat pollen allergies in children too young to take many medicines.

High pollen levels will continue throughout the rest of the week (56615246)
High pollen levels will continue throughout the rest of the week (56615246)

Avoid peak pollen times

Monitoring the predicted pollen count and checking the weather forecast can give you an early indictation of how problametic conditions are likely to be that might enable you to plan accordingly and ensure you're well prepared.

Pollen counts are most likely to be at their highest first thing in the morning when the pollen rises with the warming air and at the end of the day when the air cools, bringing the pollen back down and closer to the ground.

According to Allergy UK the pollen count will also be at its highest on dry, warm days while rain can provide some short lived relief in washing it away temporarily.

Don't dry washing outside when the pollen count is high
Don't dry washing outside when the pollen count is high

Dry inside

We all love the clean smell of laundry aired outside but pollen will stick itself to everything. If you're suffering with hay fever during the worst weeks or months it is advisable to dry not just your clothes - but also bath towels and bedding - inside in the summer months as this will significantly limit the amount of pollen brought back inside the house.

Pillow cases should also be washed every few days - suggests President of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology Professor Adam Fox - when pollen counts are high.

If pillows are covered in pollen, perhaps because the window has been open to air the room or you didn't wash your hair before bed, then you risk continually rubbing it into your face and eyes all night says the allergy expert who has also been sharing his best hayfever laundry tips with washing machine manufacturer AEG.

Allergy experts suggest washing clothes and pillowcases regularly
Allergy experts suggest washing clothes and pillowcases regularly

Undress elsewhere and don't recycle

While, with the cost of living being as high as it is, you may be trying to cut down on the amount of washing you're doing not returning clothes to the wardrobe or bringing them back to bedroom when they've been warn outside is advisable.

That sweatshirt may not be covered in a noticeable stain but it will most likely be full of tiny flecks of pollen and bringing it back inside the bedroom or hanging it among other clothes in the wardrobe could irritate you later. Undressing elsewhere in the house and placing clothes either into a wash bin or directly into the machine will also stop pollen being carried through your home.

Children suffering with a pollen allergy should wash hands and faces frequently. Photo: Getty images.
Children suffering with a pollen allergy should wash hands and faces frequently. Photo: Getty images.

Tie your hair back

Tying your hair back, or covering it with a cap and wearing sunglasses are very quick and easy adjustments to limit the amount of pollen likely to cling to you and in particular, around your face.

Again - if you have children suffering from hay fever, these are popular barrier methods alongside washing their hands and face when they come in from playing outside in order to further stop them from rubbing and transferring pollen to their nose and eyes.

A dose of local honey a day might help, suggests some sufferers
A dose of local honey a day might help, suggests some sufferers

Eating locally produced honey

Dr Subashini M, Director of Science, Health & Wellness at high street chain Holland & Barrett, lists eating locally produced honey as among her top tips for alternative hay fever relief.

Alongside drinking nettle tea, consuming more vitamin C and tackling stress, she suggests eating honey from where you live can also help relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies.

A teaspoon of local honey a day - that you ideally begin taking before the worst of the hay fever season - is thought to play a role in desensitising you to pollen which in turn will then lessen your symptoms. While there is little medical evidence to support this theory many hay fever suffers swear by it so if you've a local farm shop or producer near you it might be worth paying them a visit.



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