GPs see surge in summer hay fever

CREDIT: This story was first seen in OnMedica

Hay fever cases in England have reached their highest level so far this year, and are just under 50% higher than the same time last year, latest weekly figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners’ (RCGP) Research and Surveillance Centre (RSC) show, OnMedica reports.

The figures reveal a big spike in the number of patients seeing their GP for hay fever type symptoms – or allergic rhinitis – since the start of June, with family doctor visits more than tripling from 11,353 to 37,568 in England – the equivalent of a rise from 20.25 to 67.00 consultations per 100,000 patients. This represents a 230% increase on the previous month.

The figures are extrapolated from the RSC’s sentinel network, covering 2.8% of the GP-registered English population and are representative in all demographic dimensions, such as gender, age, ethnicity, and deprivation levels.

Mid-June traditionally marks the start of the hay fever season. Whilst in line with the average five-year trend, rates are at their highest for 2017 so far – something that the RCGP says could have been intensified by recent high temperatures. Most affected are children aged five to 14 years, followed by people between 15 and 24 years – with the former age group experiencing symptoms up to more than two and half times that of other age groups.

Hay fever traditionally develops in school-age children during the teenage years and these groups are more likely to visit a GP with hay fever symptoms rather than using over-the-counter treatments. Caused by an allergy to pollens, hay fever is estimated to affect about one in 10 people in the UK.

RCGP chair, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said: “Each year, seasonal hay fever can cause untold misery to thousands of people across the country. The weather may have taken a turn for the worse, but we are still seeing a steep rise in allergic rhinitis presentations in our surgeries – the highest so far in 2017 and higher compared to this time last year, which was surprisingly low.”

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Prof Stokes-Lampard said 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.