Millions at risk of deadly asthma attack as we face triple weather threat, doc warns

MILLIONS of people across the UK are at risk of deadly asthma attacks as the country battles a triple weather threat, experts have warned.

Brits have basked in warm, sunny weather for the past week but forecasters this week have predicted that thunderstorms will batter most of the country.

At the same time many areas are expected to experience high pollen counts, which trigger allergies such as hay fever and can increase asthma symptoms.

Today most of the South will experience high pollen levels, as will the North West – while most other areas will have mild levels.

This will continue through to tomorrow and on Thursday only a handful of areas will experience high levels of pollen.

August is grass pollen season and this could trigger symptoms for those who experience asthma.

Asthma UK says that this type of pollen can raise your risk of an asthma attack and this particular pollen is found in ragweed, nettles, dock and mugwort.

The Met Office has also issued a “danger to life” yellow warning for thunderstorms across the entire country.

Despite this, temperatures are set to remain high across most of the UK this week.

Leading charity Asthma UK has warned that this combination of weather could be "life threatening" for asthmatics.

Data from the charity shows that every ten seconds, someone in the UK has an asthma attack and the weather has a big impact on people suffering from the condition.

Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead at Asthma UK and a practising GP, said: “The triple threat of hot weather, high pollen levels and thunderstorms this week could be hazardous for the 5.4 million people in the UK with asthma, triggering potentially life-threatening asthma attacks.

"Hot air and hay fever can cause people’s airways to narrow, leaving them struggling to breathe, with symptoms like coughing, wheezing, a tight chest and breathlessness."

He added that hot weather can also increase the amount of pollutants, pollen and mould in the air which can trigger asthma symptoms.

Dr Whittamore said it is imperative that asthmatics make sure they are prepared.

“With thunderstorms expected to sweep the UK later this week we are urging anyone worried about the weather or hay fever affecting their asthma to make sure they take their hay fever medicines, carry their blue reliever inhaler and keep taking your regular preventer as prescribed by your doctor.

"We’d advise you to drink lots of water to prevent dehydration."

He said if you do plan to go outside then you should plan these activities for earlier in the day when air quality is better.

How to keep safe in the heat

Hot weather can be difficult for most of us to deal with.

But Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, has warned the risk of serious illness is much higher for the elderly, children and young people, and those who already have health conditions including heart and breathing problems.

She has urged everyone to take care, and encouraged people to keep an eye on their neighbours and relatives.

Her top tips include:

  • Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside. You can open the windows for ventilation when it is cooler
  • If you're vulnerable to the effects of heat, avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day (11am and 3pm).
  • Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this isn't possible, use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter).
  • Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol – water, lower-fat milks and tea and coffee are good options.
  • Listen to alerts on the radio, TV and social media about keeping cool.
  • Plan ahead to make sure you have enough supplies, such as food, water and any medications you need.
  • Identify the coolest room in the house so you know where to go to keep cool.
  • Wear loose, cool clothing, and a hat and sunglasses if you go outdoors.
  • Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves

The warning come days after Public Health England urged vulnerable people to stay inside during the heatwave.

Ishani Kar-Purkayastha, consultant in public health at PHE said while some people enjoy the hot weather, others find it difficult to cope.

She highlighted that people with lung conditions might find it particularly difficult to cope.

She said: "People recovering from Covid-19 at home, those who are self-isolating, older people and people with underlying health conditions are all more vulnerable during hot weather.

"This summer, many of us are spending more time at home due to Covid-19.

A lot of homes can overheat, so it’s important we continue to check on older people and those with underlying health conditions, particularly if they’re living alone and may be socially isolated."

She added that the most important thing is to stay hydrated and keep cool.

PHE also states that the pandemic will "amplify risks from the heat" and said that there are several key factors for severe Covid-19 overlap with key heat risk factors, including older age and those with chronic heart and lung problems.

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