It might be warmer this weekend but that also means higher pollen levels.
If you’re making plans for Easter, asthma and hay fever sufferers might want to think twice before heading into the great outdoors.
The Met Office is forecasting temperatures between the high teens and low 20s this weekend, and also predicting that the tree pollen risk will be high in many places – with birch, ash and willow pollen due to be airborne.
“A deadly pollen bomb is due to hit this week, putting people with asthma at risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack,” says Sonia Munde, head of services, Asthma UK. “Around 3.3 million people with asthma are affected by pollen, which can cause symptoms such as wheezing, a tight chest or coughing.”
Trees have been releasing their pollen for several weeks, she says, but the warm spring weather is going to make these pollen levels spike. “If you’re already getting symptoms, it’s not too late to help yourself stay well,” she adds.
Whether you have asthma, hay fever or an allergy made worse by high pollen levels, here’s some advice for avoiding it this weekend and for easing allergy symptoms if you get them.
1. Start taking antihistamines as soon as possible
Asthma UK advises sufferers to take antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays ASAP to make sure you’re covered during pollen season. Various treatments are available, including antihistamines which are non-drowsy. Visit asthma.org.uk and a pharmacist can help you choose which is best.
2. Take asthma medicine if you’ve had it prescribed
If you have asthma, pollen season can be deadly. “Cut your risk of having an asthma attack by taking your preventer inhaler (usually brown) as prescribed,” says Munde. “This will help to reduce the underlying inflammation in your airways and make you less likely to react if you come into contact with pollen.
“Always carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) if your symptoms flare up unexpectedly.”
3. Stay indoors on dry, windy days
Prevention is key and while none of us want to be holed up inside on a sunny day, it makes sense to keep the windows closed to shut out airborne pollen.
4. Try using petroleum jelly as a barrier
That little tin of Vaseline can be a godsend and prevent pollen from entering your nose. Try dabbing the balm around the nostril area before heading outdoors.
5. Wear sunglasses and a visor
A large pair of wraparound sunnies will prevent tiny particles of pollen from irritating your eyes. For extra protection, a visor or cap will shade you from the sun’s UV rays and help stop an allergic reaction from dust flying overhead.
6. Wash regularly
We all love to feel fresh and clean but when the pollen count is really high, make sure you shower and wash your hair when you get in the door. This way, you’ll be washing away any stray particles that might be sticking to your hair, skin and clothing, and ultimately reduce the risk of more irritation.
7. Clean the house
No one likes household chores but spring cleaning and regularly dusting, hoovering and cleaning the windows and doorway can prevent the spread of airborne pollen and again, reduce the likelihood of flare-ups.
8. Brush and clean your pets
As much as we adore our cats and dogs, their coats can carry a host of potential irritants wherever they go – especially if they’re traipsing in and out of the house. Try to keep them well-groomed and paws clean.
9. Be mindful of what you eat and drink
Good fats and foods rich in omega-3 such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, nuts and seeds won’t stop allergies, but some say they can help to ease the symptoms.
Meanwhile, alcohol might be an irritant. Histamine (produced by yeast and bacteria during fermentation) can set off allergy symptoms, according to some studies. One, by Denmark’s National Institute of Public Health and published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy in 2008, found two glasses of wine a day almost doubles the risk of allergy symptoms in women. So abstaining from booze this weekend might cause you less grief (sorry).
10. Try some home remedies
If holding your head over a bowl of hot water works for a stinking cold, there’s no reason why it can’t ease a blocked nose caused by allergies. Not only does facial steaming feel nice, it’s hydrating and can help relieve congestion and headaches.