BONFIRE night could spark potentially deadly asthma attacks for millions of sufferers, experts have warned.
Smoke particles from the fireworks and burning wood can linger in the air and create localised pollution as people head out to watch the displays and the burning of Guy Fawkes.
This is a major trigger for 61 per cent of people with asthma, a serious respiratory condition, according to Asthma UK.
In particular, they say the smoke in the air irritates sufferers’ airways so they become more inflamed and tighten.
Dr Andy Whittamore, Clinical Lead at Asthma UK and a practising GP, said: “Fireworks and bonfire displays might look pretty but if you have asthma triggered by smoke, they could land you in hospital.
“While many people will be looking forward to watching firework displays, the increased levels of soot in the air can get into people’s airways and trigger asthma symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath or even an asthma attack.”
Surge in attacks
The warning comes after it was revealed that every day in the UK, three people die from an asthma attack.
Last year, Asthma UK saw a 20 per cent surge in calls to its helpline nurses over Bonfire Night and the surrounding weekends, compared to the previous week.
Official figures also show that more than 7600 people were admitted to hospital with asthma in the UK in November 2017 compared to 7100 the month before.
Having an asthma attack can be incredibly frightening, and one occurs every ten seconds in the UK.
Struggle to breathe
Asthma UK have advised sufferers to take their preventer inhaler and keep their reliever inhaler with them.
Dr Whittamore added: “The good news is if people with asthma follow our top tips such as taking their preventer inhaler (usually brown) as prescribed, keeping their reliever inhaler (usually blue) with them in case of emergencies and making sure their family and friends know what to do if they have an asthma attack, they should not have to miss out on festivities.”
Nicola Pearson, 45, a school nurse practitioner from Preston, has revealed just how terrifying it can be having an asthma attack during a fireworks display.
She said: “A few years ago firework smoke got into my lungs and I was left struggling to breathe.
Top tips for people with asthma on Bonfire Night
1. Remember, remember….to carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you at all times.
2. Take your preventer medicines as prescribed.
3. If you find that smoke is making you cough, stand well back and admire the fireworks from a distance.
4. Make sure your friends and family know what to do and when to get help if your asthma symptoms suddenly get worse.
5. As cold air can also be an asthma trigger, if it’s cold, wrap a thin scarf loosely over your nose and mouth; this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in.
6. Visit the Asthma UK website to share their ‘what to do in an asthma attack’ with friends and family.
“My chest felt tight and I was coughing. It was a really frightening experience and I had to leave the fireworks display.
“I love fireworks and don’t want to miss out on the fun, so I make sure I carry my reliever inhaler in my coat pocket and keep a scarf wrapped loosely around my mouth and nose.
“That way I can join in the festivities but also stay safe.”
For more information you can visit Asthma UK here.