Smog leads to rise in London ambulance calls

The number of emergency calls for patients with breathing problems in the UK capital increased by 14% yesterday (April 2)

The London Ambulance Service received 227 emergency calls yesterday for people with breathing problems, 14% higher than the number of calls received on an average Wednesday (200), it has been revealed.

This rise in emergency callers comes as air pollution levels across Wales and the south of England reached 10, meaning ‘very high’ — the highest on Defra’s air pollution scale (see story).

Calls to the London Ambulance Service increased by 14% for patients with breathing problems yesterday (April 3)

Calls to the London Ambulance Service increased  for patients with breathing problems yesterday (April 3)

And, with pollution levels in London today at times measuring both ‘high’ and ‘very high’, according to Defra’s latest forecasting — which uses Met Office data — the London Ambulance Service is advising those with asthma or other respiratory conditions to seek help if they experience any symptoms.

Deputy medical director at the Service, Fenella Wrigley, said: “More people are calling us with breathing difficulties, asthma and heart problems.

Those who are young and healthy are unlikely to suffer serious short-term effects. They may experience sore eyes, a tickly cough or a dry throat. If these symptoms persist, they should speak to a pharmacist, GP or call NHS 111.

She added: “People with asthma may also find that they need to use their inhaler more frequently and I would advise them to have their inhaler with them.

“This is a busy time for us and I would urge Londoners to use us only in an emergency, and anyone with a minor condition should call NHS 111, or seek advice from their pharmacist or GP.”

Prime Minister

Speaking on BBC1’s breakfast television programme this morning, Prime Minister David Cameron said he cancelled his morning exercise due to the current poor air quality in the capital.

Mr Cameron said: “I didn’t go for my morning run this morning. I chose to do some work instead.”

He added: “It is unpleasant, and you can feel it in the air. The advice I would give to people is listen very carefully to what the Met Office is saying about the weather.”

Air quality scientists and experts said yesterday that the pollution currently being experienced was ‘nothing exceptional’ in comparison to levels regularly seen in the UK, but there were calls for Defra to publish a new air quality strategy (see story).

During periods of high air pollution, Public Health England recommends that those with lung and heart problems should reduce strenuous physical exertion — particularly outdoors and if they experience symptoms. Older people should also reduce physical exertion, and anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.


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