Alder tree

The charity has issued a warning for people not to mistake winter hay fever, which affects up to 80% of asthma sufferers, for the common cold, which has similar symptoms such as a runny or blocked nose and sneezing.

Pollen allergy is a risk factor for asthma attacks. To help people with asthma who may have winter hay fever recognise the warning signs of an imminent attack, Asthma UK have created this online checklist.

Many people think that hay fever only strikes in the summer months. However, although grass pollen levels are at their highest between May and August, other airborne allergens such as tree or weed pollens can affect sufferers as early as January and as late as November.

Currently, the Alder pollen count is rising and Hazel pollen continues to be airborne, putting many people with asthma at increased risk of an attack.

"Potentially life threatening"

Dr Samantha Walker, Director Research & Policy at Asthma UK, says: "Asthma attacks rarely appear from out of the blue, yet far too often people with asthma do not recognise the warning signs of a serious asthma attack, even though tragically two thirds of deaths from asthma attacks can be prevented with better basic care.

"The warning signs of an asthma attack can start to come on two to three days beforehand so they can potentially be prevented. If anyone with asthma finds their symptoms are changing or they are wheezing, waking at night, coughing or need to use their reliever inhaler more than usual this is a wake-up call that they could be at risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack and need to take action.

"Anyone with asthma concerned that their asthma is getting worse due to winter hay fever should use the Asthma UK checklist and book an appointment with their GP or healthcare professional. They can also discuss their symptoms with a specialist asthma nurse on the Asthma UK Helpline, 0800 121 62 44, open Monday to Friday 9am until 5pm."

If you want to learn more about asthma and allergic rhinitis through the seasons, Allergy UK have produced an online booklet including a peak flow chart, information on common pollens that trigger symptoms and helpful tips. You can download it here.

Sources:

http://www.allergyuk.org/downloads/resources/Four_seasons_resourses.pdf

http://www.asthma.org.uk/knowledge-bank-pollen-trigger-explained#hf_checklist

http://www.asthma.org.uk/News/winter-hayfever-attacks