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MILLIONS of people are suffering hay fever for the first time, according to new research.
Experts have blamed climate change for the surging number of people with the allergy.
It’s almost double the number previously thought.
Hay fever has formerly been estimated to affect around 10 million people in England, according to the NHS.
Allergy UK say between 10 per cent and 30 per cent of all adults and as many as 40 per cent of children in the UK have the condition.
But a survey suggests that now, half the UK population (49 per cent) are experiencing hay fever symptoms, around 33 million people.
Of those people, 37 per cent (12.2 million) said they had developed hay fever for the first time in the past five years.
The research, from leading charity Allergy UK in partnership with Kleenex, has been released to mark the start of the charity’s 2021 Allergy Awareness Week.
Amena Warner, head of clinical services at Allergy UK, said: "There is evidence that suggests that climate change, with increasing temperatures may contribute to extending the grass pollen season in the UK.
“Grass pollen is the cause of the majority of pollen driven hay fever symptoms. Furthermore, with warmer weather, pollen counts can be high, and breeze can spread pollen over a large area as it is carried in the wind.”
Amena explained that more CO2 and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere also causes plants to produce more pollen.
“These are the factors that lead us to expect rising pollen levels in the UK in the coming years, triggering the unpleasant symptoms of hay fever over longer periods," Amena said.
The lifting of lockdown restrictions across the UK coincides with the hay fever season, with tree pollen currently at peak levels.
Rules that only allow for socialising outdoors may be distressing for those with the condition, Allergy UK said.
Around a third of people with the allergy are concerned about spending more time outside as restrictions are lifted and said their excitement about lockdown lifting has dampened.
Of the 7,000 survey respondents, 56 per cent were worried that others may think they are infected with the coronavirus and not self isolating.
Hay fever and Covid share some symptoms, like coughing. But only with hay fever would someone get itchy eyes or a runny nose.
The pollen season runs from March to September in the UK, with different types of pollen peaking at various times in that period.
The study has also revealed the negative impact of hay fever on people’s quality of life.
Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) said they were tired because their allergy prevented them from sleeping, while a third (34 per cent) have skipped social engagements due to symptoms.
Hay fever can also impact people’s concentration levels, anxiety and ability to exercise, with 30 per cent of survey participants saying they had become unfit and put on weight as a result.
Amena said: “Hay fever can sometimes be trivialised, but this research illustrates its real impact on the millions of people across the UK who experience it each year.
“We know that anxiety about the condition has become worse during the pandemic and we urge anyone who is suffering in silence to speak to a pharmacist or healthcare professional to help find treatments that work for them.”
The pollen forecast for this week shows London, the South East, the South West and Nothern Ireland will have high pollen levels today.
The rest of England, Wales and majority of Scotland will be on a medium alert,
The Met Office says for Tuesday and Wednesday, most of the UK will have medium pollen levels.
Data from the Kleenex Pollen Forecast also suggests hay fever sufferers will need to be aware of high pollen levels across the UK this week.
The website allows you to view pollen levels by postcode, revealing readings for each type of pollen to be wary of.
Tree pollen readings are forecasted to be particularly high this week, potentially leading to a wave of runny noses, sore eyes and sneezing fits.
It’s not until summer that grass pollen levels shoot up.
How to ease hay fever
1. Shower and change clothes after being outdoors
Experts at the Kleenex Pollen Forecast say pollen gets everywhere, sticking to clothes and affecting you long after you’ve retreated inside. After a day outside, jump in the shower, or bath, and change your clothes to prevent the pollen clinging to you and furniture indoors.
2. Apply petroleum gel just under the nose
Dabbing a little petroleum gel, such as Vaseline, around the nostrils before you head out can act as a barrier to prevent pollen particles from entering your nose.
3. Wear wraparound sunglasses
This is a suitably stylish way of keeping pesky pollen powder out of your eyes.
4. Keep it clean
Regularly wash your hands when out and about to remove pollen and avoid rubbing it further into your eyes or nose. You can also carry some wipes to give your hands a quick clean when out and about.
5. Dry your laundry inside
Gorgeous weather calls for hanging the laundry outside. But if you suffer from hay fever, it’s better to dry your laundry inside so that it won’t catch any pollen outside.
6. Keep pets clean
Animal fur can easily collect pollen when outdoors.
When pets like dogs, cats and bunnies return to the comfort of your home, they bring this pollen with them where it transfers to clothing, furniture, carpets and bedding.
Try a pet friendly shampoo on days when the pollen count is high to keep your animals free of plant particles.
7. Create an on-the-go first aid kit
There are plenty of products you can pick up at the chemist to keep your symptoms in check, each with different abilities.
Antihistamines block the action of a chemical called histamine, which the body releases when it thinks it's under attack from an allergen.
If you’re struggling with a blocked, itchy or runny nose, a steroid nasal spray might provide you with some extra relief. They work by reducing the inflammation inside the nose.
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