News Health

Saturday 23 August 2014

High pollen count makes it miserable start to summer

Michael Staines

Published 18/06/2014 | 02:30

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An elephant enjoys a dip during high temperatures in Dublin Zoo this evening.
Children in Galway enjoy the fine weather yesterday

NOT everybody is enjoying the glorious summer weather. Thousands of hay fever sufferers across the country have been struck down by extremely high pollen levels.

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The main grass pollen season is in full swing according to Met Eireann, with no respite expected until the weather begins to turn.

Until then, there are a number of precautions that can be taken in order to ease the symptoms. Allergy expert, Dr Paul Carson has a few pointers for those of us trying to avoid the worst of the summer sniffles.

"You have to avoid areas of lush grassland and cutting grass," Dr Carson told the Irish Independent.

"Don't smoke, stay away from smokers and choose the seaside over the countryside. Closing windows while sleeping and while driving can also help."

Over the counter antihistamines and nasal sprays are a first line of defence for many sufferers; however Dr Carson warns that a visit to your GP can often be far more effective.

"The difficulty is that by the time people go looking for help to the pharmacy they are already very blocked in the nose so a tip would be to buy a fast acting nasal decongestant just to unblock the nose so that the medicines that the chemist has given you will be more effective.

"If what the pharmacist gives you doesn't work in a week, it is important to make your way to your own doctor where there are a whole range of medicines available to make your summer much better," he said.

Allergy levels in general seem to be rising worldwide according to Frances Guiney, director of nursing at the Asthma Society of Ireland. Our own awareness of just what allergies are however, may be a contributing factor.

"It is not black and white, there certainly are a lot more diagnoses now," said Ms Guiney.

"We are all more tuned in to the high incidence of allergies both worldwide and in Ireland. In the past symptoms may have remained dormant or not addressed but now there is a higher awareness of what hay fever is."

Dr Carson believes the rise in the number of Irish hay fever sufferers comes down to a number of factors.

"Twenty years ago, what was maybe 10pc of the population had allergies and now this has crept up to 15pc.

"It's now reckoned that 24pc of the population have some type of allergy.

"Hay fever in particular, though, is on the increase probably due to genetics. Atmospheric pollution, particularly diesel fumes, the amount of chemicals that are in our diet and an over reliance on antibiotics in childhood all compromise the immune system," he said.

It's not all bad news however, as Beverley Adams-Groom, chief palynologist at the University of Worcester explains: "We had a really early start this season, so that suggests that if the good weather continues, the season will probably end earlier," she said.

Irish Independent

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