Common grass pollen causes severe asthma attacks

Life-threatening asthma attacks may be caused by common grass pollen, a study published yesterday says.

Scientists discovered that periods of high pollen counts coincided with an increase in emergency hospital admissions for cases of severe asthma. The study was conducted over three years by researchers at the Carlos III University in Madrid, where there are significant levels of different types of airborne pollen.

More than 5,000 emergency admissions for respiratory illness were monitored and compared to data collated on pollen and pollution levels. The report found that during periods of rainy weather, when pollen counts were low, admissions levels were not significantly high. However, "epidemic level" surges in admissions coincided with high levels of pollen. In particular, the admissions were linked to the release of pollen from plantago and poeceae grasses, both of which grow across Europe.

Admissions rose by 17 per cent three days after the increase in poeceae pollen. For plantago, there was a time lag of two days before admissions rose by almost 16 per cent. Commenting on the findings of the report, which was published in the journal Thorax, Dr John Harvey, from the British Thoracic Society, said: "This study underlines how high pollen levels can cause misery for many allergy sufferers, those with both asthma and hay fever.

"If we are to reduce emergency hospital admissions, people with asthma should be aware of, and plan for, periods of high pollen and air pollution."