Allergy alert raised

2015-05-05 06:00

If you are wondering why your allergy is getting worse, it is most probably because of the recent fires in the area.

According to a leading supplier of allergy medication, nasal allergies can be much worse, especially among those living in Muizenberg, Hout Bay, Noordhoek and Stellenbosch where blazes were the most rampant.

Allergy sufferers are being warned to stay indoors and limit exercise to minimise the risk of their allergies being triggered by the high levels of particulate matter in the smoky air.

Mariska van Aswegen, spokesperson for the company, says veld fires can intensify allergy symptoms by up to 11%.

“Even if you can’t see or smell the smoke from the fires, the body may still respond to particulate matter, which is made up of minuscule particles or droplets of pollution in the air that are inhaled,” she says.

Van Aswegen says this week’s fires may also play a part in increasing hospital traffic by putting more allergens in the air. “Any exposure to any kind of smoke to those with underlying allergy conditions can cause problems and make them more susceptible to respiratory infections.

“Smoke is an environmental allergen that contains particles which can irritate the lungs, throat and eyes, triggering symptoms like difficulty with breathing normally; wheezing; shortness of breath; runny nose, itching, nasal congestion and obstruction of breathing and coughing (with or without mucous).

“The most commonly affected people are allergy sufferers, the very young – whose lungs are still developing – and the very old – whose lungs may be compromised.”

Fortunately, says Van Aswegen, there are many steps allergy sufferers can take to minimise the effects of the fires on their health. She recommends:

. Taking your medications as prescribed, including antihistamines (ask your pharmacist for an antihistamine that doesn’t make you drowsy);

. Staying indoors with your windows closed as much as possible (commercial paper masks do not offer significant protection);

. Limiting exercise outdoors – school children who suffer from allergies may have to cut back on sports training when fires are ablaze and the high winds carry particulate matter far and wide;

. Do not smoke, light candles or vacuum as these activities will increase the particular matter count in your home;

. Wash your hair, clothes and pets after being outside;

. Use eye and nasal drops to wash particles out of your eyes and nose to decrease irritation.

She urges sufferers or parents who suspect their children may be sufferers to access for more information about allergies

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