BRITS are being warned of a potentially deadly "pollen bomb" which could put millions at risk of life-threatening asthma attacks.
Experts say hay fever season has landed three weeks early this year after an unusually warm winter, which saw temperatures soar to 21C.
1 The pollen forecast for the rest of this week shows levels will be high in most parts of the UK
It means birch tree pollen – which affects one in four hay fever sufferers – is already being released across the country.
Experts say that's bad news for 3.3million people whose asthma is worsened by pollen and warn sufferers to take extra care.
Sonia Munde, head of services at Asthma UK, told The Sun Online: “A deadly pollen bomb is due to hit this week, putting people with asthma at risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
"Around 3.3million people with asthma are affected pollen, which can cause symptoms such as wheezing, a tight chest or coughing.
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“Trees have been releasing their pollen for several weeks, but the warm spring weather is going to make these pollen levels spike.
"If you’re already getting symptoms, it’s not too late to help yourself stay well.
"Take your prescribed preventer medicine to soothe your irritated airways so you’re less likely to react to the pollen trigger.
"Take hay fever medicines such as antihistamines as they stop the allergic reaction that triggers asthma symptoms and keep itchy eyes and runny noses at bay.
"Everyone with asthma should keep their blue reliever inhaler with them at all times in case of an emergency."
Hay fever getting worse
Usually, birch pollen is only released into the air for around four weeks every year.
A third of sufferers say that their hay fever has gotten worse in recent years.
We predicted that hay fever season would start a lot earlier this year back in February.
A premature spell of dry, sunny, warm weather can bring hay fever season forward – extending the months of irritable misery suffered by thousands.
How to deal with hay fever
Experts have come up with a number of ways of tackling hay fever.
Specsavers clinical spokesperson, Dr Nigel Best says: "Hay fever sufferers who wear contact lenses may notice the vision through their lenses can appear smeary and eyes can generally feel uncomfortable.
"However, there are some things contact lens wearers can try to help reduce the irritation.
Use drops or ditch the contact lenses
"Contact lens-friendly eye drops can help to calm down any itchiness and wearing prescription glasses (particularly wraparound sunglasses) can prevent pollen from getting into your eyes.
"Those suffering with hay fever could also try daily disposable lenses during the summer months."
Dr Best also recommends: ‘While it’s not always possible, staying inside when pollen count is high will help to avoid irritation or showering and changing your clothes when you get home will also help to remove pollen from skin and hair.’
But, it is not just eyes which are affected, hay fever can also cause your ears to become itchy or inflamed.
Specsavers’ chief audiologist Gordon Harrison says: "Allergic reactions can cause the outer ear to itch or swell.
"The middle ear contains the Eustachian tube, which acts as a drainage tube, but when mucus clogs the middle ear it affects that drainage. This leads to a build-up in pressure, which can cause discomfort, popping in the ears or earache.
"To avoid irritation, try putting Vaseline around the nose to trap pollen, vacuum and dust regularly or you can try over the counter pain relief.
Shower and change clothes often
Showering and changing after being outside will help remove pollen and antihistamines decongestants can help relieve symptoms.
Pollen forecaster and hay fever expert Dr Beverley Adams-Groom told The Sun: "We are likely to see an early start to the birch pollen season, which affects around 25 per cent of hay fever sufferers in the spring.
"The grass pollen season (usually starting in late May/early June) could be on the early side too but it's too soon to say because it's the weather in late March and April that mainly affects it."
Allergy expert Dr Jean Emberlin said: "When you get warmth like that in winter, it gives the trees a real push to open up and start releasing pollen.
"We had some bad weather at the beginning of March which temporarily put a halt to it or we could have seen a very, very early birch pollen season."
Dr Emberlin warned that if we get a spell of dry and windy weather, that could see the "perfect storm" for pollen to be released in the air over Easter.
And it's not just rural sufferers that could see their breaks ruined.
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She said that cities could be just as badly hit – if not more so, because there are loads of birch trees in parks, gardens and on streets.
The Met Office is predicting very high pollen levels across most of all of England, Northern Ireland and the majority of Scotland on Friday and Saturday.
It coincides with some much warmer conditions across the country for the Easter weekend, with temperatures expected to reach 22C in the south east.
UK Weather forecast – Weather turning warmer with plenty of sunshine for the whole of the UK