South Africa — Smoke and debris from veld fires across the Cape this season could see a spike in nasal allergies, especially among those living in Steenberg, Strandfontein and Atlantis 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.
Wilmi Hudsonberg, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics a leading supplier of allergy medication says veld fires can intensify allergy symptoms by up to 11 percent.
“Even if you cant see or smell the smoke from the fires, the body may still respond to particulate matter, which is made up of miniscule particles or droplets of pollution in the air that are inhaled.”
Hudsonberg says this weeks 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 breathing normally
Shortness of breath
Runny nose, itching, nasal congestion and obstruction of breathing
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 Hudsonberg, 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 doesnt 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 www.allergyexpert.co.za for more information about allergies.