With high temperatures and high pollen levels forecast this weekend, millions of people with lung conditions or hay fever in the UK are being urged to take precautions.
The Met Office is predicting high pollen levels across every area of England and Wales on Friday and Saturday, with medium levels in Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland.
The charity Asthma and Lung UK said more than 3 million people in the UK have lung conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and are at risk of attacks or flare-ups this weekend.
People are being urged to ensure they keep on taking preventer inhalers if they use them and to keep their reliever inhaler with them at all times. Other tips include staying indoors on high-pollen days and keeping an eye on weather forecasts.
Pollen can trigger symptoms such as a tight chest, wheezing and breathlessness in more than half of people living with asthma (59%) and more than a quarter of those living with COPD, according to research from the charity.
Allergies can cause airways to tighten up and a build-up of sticky mucus, making it harder to breathe. Asthma attacks can be fatal, with about four people in the UK dying from one every day.
“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,” said Dr Andy Whittamore, the clinical lead for Asthma and Lung UK.
“These attacks can leave people fighting for breath, which can be terrifying, but there are things they can do to look after themselves.
“Using your preventer inhalers as prescribed is important as the medicine reduces sensitivity and swelling in the airways, helping to prevent symptoms such as wheezing and coughing before they even start.
“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 third thing people can do is to use a steroid nasal spray every day, together with non-drowsy antihistamine tablets to help stop the allergic reaction. People should also check pollen and air pollution forecasts in their local area, so they can avoid going outdoors as much as possible on high pollen days.”
The high pollen levels expected this weekend may also affect millions of people who suffer from hay fever. The condition is usually worse when it’s warm, humid and windy.
With high levels predicted this weekend, people may be more likely to experience symptoms including sneezing and coughing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy, red or watery eyes, itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears, loss of smell, pain around your temples and forehead, headache, earache and fatigue. Hay fever can last for weeks or months, unlike a cold, which usually goes away after one or two weeks.
There is currently no cure for hay fever and people who experience it cannot prevent it. However, the NHS says there are things people can do to ease their symptoms when the pollen count is high across England and Wales on Friday and Saturday.
They include putting Vaseline around the nostrils to trap pollen, wearing wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into the eyes, and showering and changing clothes after being outside to wash pollen off.
Other tips include staying indoors whenever possible, keeping windows and doors shut as much as possible, vacuuming regularly and dusting with a damp cloth. Pharmacists can give advice and suggest the best treatments, such as antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays to help with itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, and a blocked nose.
Pollen levels are forecast to remain high in England and Wales across the weekend, but are set to fall to medium in north-east England on Sunday and drop to medium in London and the south-east by Monday.