The paper mulberry pollen count, which continues to increase steadily, is estimated to cross the 55,000 mark on Thursday and 50,000 mark on Friday. When the Pakistan Meteorological Department reports the pollen count, it reports the average over a 24-hour period, and this has crossed 40,000. Hourly monitoring of pollen reveals the highest counts after ‘Fajr,’ and again between ‘Asr’ till night. However, the suspended amount of pollen in the atmosphere has been causing severe agony for pollen allergy patients.
Severe persistent coughing with difficulty in breathing and wheezing have been the cardinal features of pollen allergy this year because the sudden exponential rise in pollens did not allow much time for the early symptoms of sneezing, itching in the eyes and skin, and blocked nose.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department has forecast rains and thunderstorm from Saturday night. While this may wash away the pollens in the days to come, tonight can be a night of disaster for pollen asthma patients. “As the humidity increases, pollen grains will begin to swell up and release microscopic particles, which will increase the severity of an asthmatic attack in allergic patients. Coupled with this, increased humidity may make breathing even more difficult,” Dr. Osman informed.
Patients suffering from pollen allergy and asthma must see their doctor today (Sunday) to prevent worsening of symptoms later this evening. The Free Pollen Allergy Camp established by the Chief Commissioner, Islamabad Capital Territory, being held at the Aabpara Community Centre, every day from 9 a.m. till 3 p.m., has properly trained doctors who can advise patients on proper precautions and treatment for all sorts of pollen allergy patients. Patients are advised to seek medical advice from a doctor who is trained in allergy management. Long acting, non-sedating anti-histamines can be taken in not one or two, but up to 3 or 4 tablets a day. Inhalers are the best form of giving medicines to the lungs. When taken properly, medicines to open the breathing tubes, or bronchodilators will give relief to coughing within minutes. If a patient cannot take an inhaler properly, then medicine can be given by nebulizers. It must be remembered that taking an inhaler without a proper spacer bottle greatly reduces its effectiveness.
According to allergy specialist Dr. Osman Yusuf it is essential that bronchodilators are followed by inhaled steroids, which form the mainstay of allergy and asthma treatment. “It is important to clarify that inhaled steroids do not have the side-effects of oral or injectable steroids, which often scare people. However, in case of an emergency, remember that the doctor knows best. If he advises to take oral or injectable steroids, then they must be taken, otherwise the consequences can be life-threatening,” he warned.
However, the use of preventative measures to prevent or reduce exposure to pollen grains remains paramount. Washing of eyes, nose and face every 20 to 30 minutes, application of any lotion, oil or Vaseline inside the nostrils and even on the face and exposed skin, every hour, will greatly help to reduce exposure to pollen. Wearing of facemasks, preferably moistened, use of air-conditioners with the vent closed, and sealing of all externally opening doors and windows, can greatly help to reduce the suffering of pollen allergy patients.
“Patients are also warned that if the rains commencing tonight last for less than 3 to 4 days, paper mulberry pollens may restart to flower about 5 to 7 days after receiving strong sunshine, so there may be a second peak, although much less, in the second week of April. However, if the rain persists for more than 4 to 5 days, then the chances are that patients may get a respite till next year,” Dr. Osman shared.
The allergy specialist advised patients to continue their anti-allergy medicines until the end of April; however, medicines for symptomatic relief can be tapered 3 to 5 days after the pollen counts have dropped. Daily pollen counts and accurate weather forecasts can be seen on the Pakistan Meteorological Department’s website (www.pakmet.com.pk), while pollen allergy and asthma precautions can be downloaded in Urdu and English from www.allergypakistan.com.
In Islamabad on Saturday (In per cubic metre of air)
Types of Pollens H-8 E-8 F-8 G-7 I-10
Paper Mulberry 33,755 18,755 10,751 8,045 1,969
Acacia 00 00 00 00 00
Eucalyptus 00 00 00 00 00
Pines 05 10 15 25 02
Grasses 12 19 15 06 03
Cannabis 17 33 21 07 06
Dandelion 00 00 00 00 00
Alternaria 24 22 20 13 18
TOTAL 33,813 18,839 10,822 8,096 1,998