Allergy Awareness Week this year has attracted extra attention following a number of high-profile cases over the past 12 months, some of which have proved fatal.
As a result, we are now more aware than ever before how serious some allergies can be.
As TV Doctor Dr Arun Ghosh says: “Many of us suffer from allergies or intolerances to chemicals, foods and plants. For the vast majority of us, this isn't serious so long as we avoid the trigger causes and symptoms settle with simple shop bought antihistamines.
“However, sometimes it is very difficult if not impossible to avoid these triggers and in other cases finding the cause can be difficult to pin down. At this time of the year I see lots of Hay Fever or as its medically called, Seasonal allergic rhinitis.
“Seasonal allergic rhinitis is caused by airborne allergens from grasses, trees, weeds, plants and outdoor moulds which are wind pollinated.
“Funnily enough bright flowers whose pollination is by insects are unlikely to cause allergy. It is more typically trees and grass such as spring birch tree pollen which is highly allergenic and planting birch trees near homes or in school grounds can sensitise susceptible people.
“I often see lots of children with school examinations coming up, since most exams are taken in the summer months, when grass pollen levels are at their highest. But also, gardeners and grounds keepers are particularly susceptible to these symptoms and can lead to dangerous situations for anyone operating machinery outside. I've helped countless numbers of driving instructors too who find hay fever not only a hinderance but a danger.
“Though there are lots of treatment options including a few old wives tales, the best advice is always about how to avoid getting the symptoms in the first place which I give to all patients who are suffering. This includes:
• Monitor pollen forecasts daily and stay indoors wherever possible when the count is high (generally on warmer, dry days). Rain washes pollen from the air so counts should be lower on cooler, wet days. Do beware of thunderstorms when pollen counts are high.
• Limit time spent in rural areas. Sea breezes blow pollen inland, so escape to the coast instead.
• On high pollen days, shower and wash your hair after arriving home and change your clothing (as pollen is virtually indestructible unless wet, so will stay on your hair, body and clothing).
• Keep windows closed when indoors. This is most important in the early mornings, when pollen is being released, and in the evening when the air cools and pollens that have been carried up into the air begin to fall to ground level again.
• Pollen counts tend to be high along roads with grass verges (dual-carriageways, motorways). If you have allergic symptoms whenever inside a motor vehicle, a good pollen filter should help. In the home you can choose an air filter that is tried and tested.
"Though there are lots of treatment options including a few old wives tales, the best advice is always about how to avoid getting the symptoms in the first place."
Dr Arun Ghosh
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