Hay fever hell set to continue for millions of Brits
With it being the start of October tomorrow, hay fever sufferers may have thought they were in the clear by now and believe they are unlikely to have a flare-up of typical symptoms such as runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, and sneezing. Unfortunately, there has been evidence of an emergence in Britain of the biggest US culprit for hay fever, which could mean that an estimated 18 million Brits with the condition are not out of the woods just yet. This equates to one in five of us. The mild weather of the last few weeks has provided the perfect opportunity for common ragweed to flourish. Ragweed is a highly allergenic plant that can release a staggering one billion pollen grains within a single season. Ragweed pollen came to European territory way back in the 1960s, contained in contaminated seed, but needs extended and mild autumns to really thrive and therefore does not usually have a massive impact in the UK. In North America though, ragweed pollen is responsible for sparking a huge number of asthma and allergy attacks. In recent times, scientists have barely ever been able to detect the pollen in the UK’s air. However, earlier this month scientists in the East Midlands found ragweed pollen present in the air for four consecutive days, and on the third day, there more sufficient pollen to cause an onset of hay fever and asthma symptoms for those that have these conditions. Ragweed is substantially more allergenic than grass and could prove a serious issue for those with hay fever and/or asthma if its volume continues to increase in the air. Not only that, it would mean a longer hay fever season for many, as the season commonly ends in August for a lot of people with hay fever. Health experts have also warned asthmatics to be vigilant and make sure they always carry their asthma inhalers in case of an attack. Deborah Waddell, lead clinical advisor at Asthma UK, last week said: “The milder weather and presence of ragweed pollen may now result in a longer pollen season this year which will cause misery for people with asthma and hay fever in the UK. “The 79 per cent of people with asthma who find that pollen makes their symptoms worse may also be at an increased risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack.” Dr Catherine Pashley, who led the research in Leicester, says the plant can reach three feet in height and had most likely managed to find its way into Europe from birdseed imported from the US. She also said that though cases of ragweed had been found in Britain previously, none of which were enough to cause a major pollen problem. Dr Pashley said: “Ragweed can't survive in the East Midlands because of our cooler climate compared to North America and Central Europe, so we were very surprised to see it when we analysed the pollen and fungi in the air earlier this month. “Most years we haven’t seen any at all. Some years we’ve seen one or two grains in a day. Now instead we’ve had ragweed in the air on four consecutive days and one of the days it went well above the level which is known to cause problems in people allergic to it. So that was completely unexpected. It could extend the hayfever season for people who may be allergic to it. “Whether or not we continue to see more ragweed will very much depend on how mild this autumn is and when we have the first frost. If it is a late frost, it is likely that ragweed levels may increase this time next year.” Medical Specialists® Pharmacy have a wide range of treatments for hay fever that can ease symptoms for sufferers, including Loratadine – a non-drowsy antihistamine which can provide relief from the symptoms of hay fever and Nasonex nasal spray – a nasal corticosteroid spray for the relief of congestion, sneezing, itching and a runny nose. Prevalin is another nasal spray that lines the inside of your nose and actually deactivates the pollen, and Alomide allergy eye drops that can bring relief from red, itchy, watery and puffy eyes if used regularly.