Hello and welcome summer. Last weekend was the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures soaring to a blissful 28 degrees in some areas. As residents of this fair isle, it’s tradition to celebrate the coming of the sun by stripping down to as few clothes as possible and plonking ourselves down in the nearest patch of greenery with the family; a guaranteed lovely day out for children and adults alike…or is it? Sadly, for more than just a few, a day out in nature in early summer can, in truth, be a nightmare of sneezing, runny noses and itchy eyes…
It’s the number one allergy trigger, grass pollen, and hot on the heels of the unseasonably warm weather comes the height of grass pollen season. So, while many of us are bathing in the sunshine, others are reaching for tissues, antihistamines and for the more serious sufferers, inhalers.
90% of hay fever sufferers are allergic to grass pollen and when grass pollen levels are high, more people are admitted to hospital with asthma attacks. This is because asthma also has allergic triggers of which grass pollen is the most common. Of the 5.4 million asthma sufferers in the UK, 50% of adults and 90% of children have allergic asthma, making it the most common form of the condition, responsible for roughly 1 in 3 attacks. Now, new research has emerged showing that the sniffling and sneezing many of us unwittingly dismiss as the milder symptoms of hay fever when coupled with wheezing and shortness of breath can in some cases be signs of a more serious health risk – allergic asthma.
Shockingly, 3 million asthma sufferers in the UK have not been allergy tested despite the fact that this knowledge could empower them to begin managing their condition through avoidance techniques. Guidance for asthma treatment recommends specific IgE testing –a form of blood tests – to identify allergens as soon as a formal asthma diagnosis has been made. In the study, over 97% of asthmatics asked believed that understanding their asthma triggers would help them to manage their condition and 90% of those who had been tested said they’d taken steps to manage their asthma as a result.
A better knowledge of asthma triggers could save lives. Leading asthma authority, Dr Shuaib Nasser, Consultant in the Department of Allergy, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, states, “We know that triggers can be identified for many people with asthma – the attacks don’t come out of the blue.” Known triggers include hay fever, pet dander, food allergy, dust mites, fungal spores. Dr Nasser emphasises that “allergen testing is widely available and should be offered to everyone where allergy is likely to trigger asthma attacks.”