Warning of high pollen weekend ahead

As we approach a period of high pollen this weekend, the Asthma Society of Ireland is issuing urgent advice on managing asthma and hayfever.

Of the 380,000 people in Ireland living with asthma, 80% of them also experience hayfever. The Asthma Society is urging everyone to manage their hay fever symptoms and is reminding those with asthma that unmanaged hayfever can trigger an asthma attack.

Now in its 50th year, the Asthma Society of Ireland is dedicated to supporting individuals with asthma and allergic rhinitis (hayfever) through an always on pollen tracker on asthma.ie. Supported by ALK and A. Menarini, the pollen tracker indicates when there will be periods of high pollen so you can take appropriate precautions.

Pollen, a microscopic grain released by plants, plays a significant role in triggering allergies for many individuals. Understanding the different types of pollen is crucial in managing allergic reactions effectively.

Tree pollen is typically released during the spring season. Grass pollen, on the other hand, tends to be more prevalent during the summer months. Ireland is one of the least forested countries in Europe but is covered by grassland, which is why we see grass pollen allergies dominating the summer months.

Typical symptoms of seasonal hay fever and perennial allergic rhinitis are not limited to just a few but can include a number of the following:

Sneezing, as well as an itchy, blocked, or runny nose

Red, itchy, or watery eyes

An itchy throat, inner ear, or mouth

A post-nasal drip

A diminished sense of taste and smell

Headaches, reduced concentration and a general feeling of unwellness

Hayfever can be adequately managed by a combination of medical and lifestyle advice. Appropriate medication, including antihistamines and immunotherapy can be accessed through your GP or pharmacist.

Ruth Morrow, a Respiratory Nurse Specialist at the Asthma Society provides these practical tips for managing your hay fever symptoms and reducing the impact of pollen on your respiratory health.

Keep windows closed at night-time or when the pollen count is high.

Monitor the pollen levels on asthma.ie and minimize time spent outdoors when the pollen count is high.

Apply vaseline around the nostrils when outdoors to trap pollen.

Wear wraparound sunglasses to minimize levels of pollen irritating the eyes. Splash the eyes with cold water to help flush out pollen and soothe and cool the eyes.

Shower, wash your hair and change clothes if you have been outdoors for an extended time.

Exercise in the morning rather than the evening when there are higher rates of pollen falling.

Avoid drying clothes outdoors and shake clothes outside before bringing them inside – particularly bedclothes.

Minimise contact with pets that have been outdoors and are likely to carry pollen.

Put an Asthma Action Plan in place. An Asthma Action Plan contains all the information a person with asthma needs to keep their condition in control. Every person with asthma should be offered a plan. It should be reviewed frequently, and any time medication is changed. These can be downloaded from www.asthma.ie and should be filled out with the patient’s healthcare professional.

Top Tips from people living with asthma include:

Sarah Darcy, an asthma advocate from Dublin, finds the Asthma Society of Ireland's Adviceline service (1800 44 54 64) invaluable in managing her asthma during hay fever season.

By monitoring the daily pollen count on asthma.ie, she plans her activities accordingly and takes steps to minimize pollen exposure at home.

James Clegg, from Dublin, who has asthma and allergies plans ahead so he can enjoy an active lifestyle during hay fever season saying he avoids freshly cut grass, wears wraparound sunglasses whilst walking outside.

He also schedules outdoor activities in the morning when the pollen falling is lower, showers afterward, and changes clothes to prevent pollen from entering his home.

Dr Maitiu O’Faolain, GP with a special interest in respiratory health outlines the importance of good hay fever management.

"Understanding the impact of hay fever on people living with asthma is essential for their well-being. Hay fever can significantly worsen asthma symptoms, making it crucial to address and manage these allergies.

"By effectively managing hay fever, we can alleviate the burden on asthma patients, enhance their quality of life, and promote better respiratory health overall."

For more top tips on managing your hay fever symptoms and to access the Asthma Society’s pollen tracker visit asthma.ie or follow us on socials.

You can also access asthma or hayfever support by calling the Asthma Adviceline on 1800 44 54 64 or texting the HSE funded WhatsApp messaging service 086 059 0132, which allows patients with asthma, and their families and carers, to message a respiratory specialist nurse about all aspects of their disease management.