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Hay fever rate peaks in London (light blue line)

Hay fever rate peaks in London (light blue line)

London has suffered the worst hay fever outbreak in the country for the last two weeks, a study of GPs revealed today.

Rates of asthma were also the highest nationally last week as the soaring heat and pollen count caused misery for sufferers, many of whom suffer from both conditions.

The Royal College of GPs’ weekly respiratory disease report said there were 107.8 cases of allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, reported to GPs in London for every 100,000 people.

This was down from the previous week, when a rate of 137.6 was the highest in the country this year, but still well above the national average of 78.4.

Across the country, problems were said to be most acute in children aged five to 14 – where rates were more than double the national average – and people aged 15 to 24.

Asthma levels in London increased from 11.4 to 14.9 per 100,000 over the last two weeks of June, bucking a drop nationwide to an average of 11.5.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Although the analysis from our Research and Surveillance Centre shows that hay fever rates are continuing to rise – and are worse in London than elsewhere in the country – they do seem to be levelling off, so we hope that the worst is over.

“Patients who are suffering from hay fever can be reassured that in most cases anti-histamine medications that are available over the counter at local pharmacists should be effective at relieving symptoms.  

“Patients that suffer from hay fever can also take simple steps to help minimise their exposure to pollen, such as wearing a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses, and to applying Vaseline to nostrils to help trap pollen particles.”

Breathing problems are due to continue over the weekend, with pollen levels “very high” in the capital until Tuesday, according to the Met Office. Temperatures will rise to 28 degrees tomorrow and 25C on Sunday but fall slightly next week, with rain showers forecast for Tuesday.

Public Health England said there had been an increase in calls to the NHS 111 helpline and to out-of-hours GP services for asthma, wheezing and difficulty in breathing for the last week of June, with GP consultations for allergic rhinitis at “elevated levels”.

The figures come after London Ambulance Service declared that Wednesday was its busiest summer day ever, with paramedics attending 1,571 life-threatening incidents including 266 for breathing problems and 286 where the patient was unconscious or fainting.