Soaring temperatures could result in ‘life-threatening asthma attacks’ – expert warning

Asthma: St John Ambulance explain how to help during attack

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Finally, the weather is looking up in England after a prolonged period of cold, windy showers. After months of deprivation, Brits up and down the country will be topping up their vitamin D levels. However, soaring temperatures can have devastating consequences for the 5.4 million people living with asthma in the UK.

Hot weather can trigger potentially fatal asthma attacks, warns Asthma UK.

“Soaring temperatures combined with high pollen levels can trigger asthma symptoms and could result in life-threatening asthma attacks,” explained Eluned Hughes, Head of Health Advice at Asthma UK.

People with asthma who are prone to hay fever should be extra vigilant and take necessary precautions when out and about.

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, typically when it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat.

As Hughes explained, hot weather can cause people’s airways to become irritated and inflamed, while hot air entering the respiratory system can trigger coughing and shortness of breath.  

“High pollution and pollen levels that usually accompany hot weather can exacerbate the considerable health challenges faced by people with asthma during the warmer months.”

How to respond

“It’s vital that everyone with asthma takes their preventer inhaler as prescribed, as this builds up protection in the airways over time,” advised Ms Hughes.

“This reduces sensitivity and swelling in your airways, helping to stop wheezing and coughing before they even start.”

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As she explained, it means if people do come into contact with a trigger like heat, pollen or pollution, they are less likely to have an asthma attack.

“We’d encourage everyone with asthma to take their reliever inhaler (usually blue) everywhere with them.”

Ms Hughes continued: “It relaxes the muscles in your airways and eases your symptoms on the spot, so it’s important to carry your reliever inhaler around with you.

“Managing your asthma triggers will help prevent asthma attacks too, so in hot weather make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to stay cool and plan any outdoor activities, including exercise, for earlier in the day when the air quality tends to be better.”

Ms Hughes also said to check if pollen levels are high and “blitz” hay symptoms with antihistamines and/or a steroid nasal spray.

Antihistamines are medicines often used to relieve symptoms of allergies, such as hay fever.

“There are lots of different medicine options for hay fever and your pharmacist can help you decide what to try,” noted Ms Hughes.

“If you need advice and support with your asthma visit” 

Asthma attack – the symptoms to spot

Every 10 seconds someone has a potentially life-threatening asthma attack in the UK.

According to the NHS, signs that you may be having an asthma attack include:

  • Your symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheezing or tight chest)
  • Your reliever inhaler (usually blue) is not helping
  • You’re too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
  • Your breathing is getting faster and it feels like you cannot catch your breath
  • Your peak flow score is lower than normal
  • Children may also complain of a tummy or chest ache.

As the health body explains, the symptoms will not necessarily occur suddenly. 

“In fact, they often come on slowly over a few hours or days.”

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