Pollution and high pollen counts to bring misery for hayfever sufferers

Pollution and high pollen counts to bring misery for hayfever sufferers

Hay fever sufferers could face worse symptoms than usual this Spring as high pollen counts mingle with heavy pollution and Saharan dust.

Experts warned that there could be a 33 per cent rise in the number of people struck by the debilitating condition this year because of worsening conditions. Invading plants like ragweed are also bringing increasing amounts of allergy-inducing pollen to Britain.

Often dubbed ‘grayfever’, hayfever is twice as common in towns and cities as in the countryside, largely because of higher levels of traffic pollution.

However this year the cooler conditions of March have meant that pollen levels are increasing just as air quality levels are falling, bringing misery for millions of people. And the situation is being made worse by Saharan dust blowing in from Africa.

Dr Grant Allen, of the School of Earth, Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester, said: “We tend to get a week like this in April every year. The sun is not powerful enough to burn off the pollution that is in the air and high pressure keeps the air still.

“That is what we have now. The air has not moved for a few days and what air is moving is coming from Europe and bringing more pollution with it.

“That is why London and South East are seeing very high levels of pollution and poor air quality.”

Around 16 million people in Britain suffer from hayfever, and the figure is expected to rise 30 million within the next two decades. 95 per cent of hay fever sufferers are allergic to grass pollen. One in four is allergic to birch and one in five allergic to oak.

This year the cold winter has stopped flowers and trees releasing pollen so early, so the hayfever season is now likely to continue until September.

“We expect a number of high birch pollen counts, followed by fairly intense oak pollen, verging on severe,” said National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit chief pollen forecaster Beverley Adams-Groom.

Dr Jean Emberlin, Scientific Director of Allergy UK warned that one third more people could notice hayfever symptoms this year.

“The good weather typically brings increases in air pollution, which can make symptoms worse, and again lead them to occur in people who have been symptom free before,” she said.

“There is substantial evidence from pollen monitoring records and from vegetation surveys to show that the timing of some of the pollen seasons has been changing in the UK and across Europe over the last few decades.

“In addition there has been a trend to longer pollen seasons and increasing pollen loads of some types.”

Health officials issued a warning this week about the high levels of pollution in Britain and advised adults and children with lung or heart problems to avoid strenuous activity.

Pollution makes hayfever worse as it creates a smog which traps pollen, preventing it from escaping into the upper atmosphere.

Andrew Williams, nurse consultant in allergy at Homerton NHS Hospital, in Hackney East London, said there had already been an upsurge in admissions, mainly triggered by London Plane trees and birch pollen.

“If nasal passages are already inflamed from the pollen then diesel particulates in the air can become problematic.

“People have already been coming in with symptoms triggered by the London Plane tree.

“Now we are seeing high birch pollen levels, a lot of sufferers are presenting slightly earlier than usual as the problem gets worse.”

Allergy expert Max Wiseberg of HayMax balms, said: “We have already seen a 25 per cent increase in sales compared to this time last year.

“Part of the problem is that the March weather followed by the warmth has forced birch trees to furiously start releasing pollen.”

By Sarah Knapton,

The Telegraph, Saturday 11 April 2015

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