The Met Office has a ‘High’ pollen forecast across England until Saturday. It may at last be time to put away the winter coats, but now the winter chill is set to be replaced by another weather nuisance.
Soaring temperatures in the UK this week, which could reach as high as 26°C (80°F), will bring misery to millions of hay fever sufferers.
Experts have warned of a ‘condensed spring’ this week as the UK will deal with a period of intense flowing that could lead to a ‘pollen bomb’.
Scientists say the high levels of a pollen are a result of a long and brutal winter. The sudden sunny weather follows the months of snow, rain and freezing temperatures Britons have had to endure.
Concerned charities have today warned pollen is a ‘top trigger’ for asthma attacks, which can prove deadly.
Holly Shaw, nurse advisor at Allergy UK, added: ‘The warmer weather can signal the start of allergic symptoms for people with hay fever.
‘Pollen avoidance can be challenging due to the many different types of pollens from grasses, trees and weeds being released at different times of the year.’
Sonia Munde, nurse manager at Asthma UK, said: ‘Pollen is a top trigger for asthma attacks at this time of the year, affecting an estimated 3.3 million people with asthma in the UK.
‘People with asthma who also have a pollen allergy not only experience classic hay fever symptoms such as itchy eyes and a running nose, but are also at an increased risk of a life-threatening asthma attack.’
The Met Office is issuing a red ‘High’ warning in its pollen forecast from today until Saturday, as the ‘African Blowtorch’ brings record temperatures.
The Met Office’s John West said: ‘With these higher temperatures and an area of high pressure in charge, pollen levels are going to be higher than average, affecting those with hay fever.’
Hay fever is thought to affect around 18 million people in Britain and 60 million people in the US.
Hay fever is thought to affect around 18 million people in the UK and 60 million in the US, and scientists are researching new treatments to relieve symptoms including a 24 hr stick-on patch and an injection
The condition traditionally develops in school-age youngsters or during their teenage years and these groups are more likely to visit a GP with symptoms rather than using over-the-counter treatments.
Tree pollen, which affects one in four of Britain’s hay fever sufferers, will be prevalent this week, Mr West said.
The result of a long winter
Scientists say the incoming ‘pollen bomb’ is a result of a long winter.
WHAT IS HAY FEVER?
Hay fever traditionally develops in school-age youngsters or during their teenage years and these groups are more likely to visit a GP with symptoms rather than using over-the-counter treatments.
Caused by an allergy to pollen, the condition is estimated to affect about one in ten Britons and Americans.
Grass pollen is the most common cause of reactions and tends to affect sufferers between May and July. Tree pollens tend to be most active from March to May and weed pollens from early spring to early autumn.
Symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes.
As the body’s immune system reacts to the pollen, cells in the lining of the nose and eyes release histamine and other chemicals.
These cause inflammation in the nose – a condition called rhinitis – and conjunctivitis in the eyes.
Plants need a period of cold and then warm weather before they are able to flower, meaning that now the days are warming up those plants that were not able to flower earlier in the spring are likely to all do so together, according to an article in the New Scientist.
The ‘condensed spring’ could mean those who are affected by hay fever – an allergy to plant pollen which causes cold-like symptoms when the powder comes into contact with the eyes, nose and mouth – will have to stock up on medications soon.
Guy Barter, chief horticultural advisor at the Royal Horticultural Society told New Scientist: ‘Cold has held spring back by two weeks, so suddenly everything will come out in a rush.’
Elizabeth Wolkovich, assistant professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University, added: ‘It’s like a sort of dosing. Each day brings a plant some dose of cold or warmth, and once they’ve got the full dose of the two requirements they can flower.’
April’s high tree pollen
April is a month with particularly high tree pollen – whereas grass and weed pollens are typically higher later in the year – and birch pollen is currently airborne in the south and East Anglia regions, according to the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit.
Many hay fever sufferers rely on over-the-counter anti-histamines to help relieve their characteristic runny nose, itchy eyes and other symptoms, although there has been research into other remedies such as a 24-hour stick-on skin patch and an injection.
Delivering medicines through a skin patch is often preferable for treating a chronic condition such as hay fever because it means less of the active drug is needed, as it won’t be broken down by the stomach.
Researchers in the US have also started trials of an allergy vaccine which could help people who suffer with hay fever by injecting small amounts of allergens into the body to make the immune system less likely to react to them.