REMINISCENT of ‘pea souper’ days of old, a cloud of smog — caused by sand from the Sahara Desert — hung over East Lancashire yesterday.

Although pollution levels remained low compared to other areas, people with asthma and existing heart or lung conditions were advised to take extra care.

‘High and very high’ pollution levels were recorded by the Met Office in parts of southern England, while moderate levels were recorded in Bolton and Wigan.

Public Health England [PHE] said a perfect storm of dust from the Sahara, pollution from the Continent, low south-easterly winds and domestic pollution caused air quality to plummet.

The agency told people with lung and heart conditions to avoid strenuous activity outdoors, while people suffering symptoms of pollution —including sore eyes, coughs and sore throats — were told to cut down the amount they do outside.

Asthmatics were warned of the need to use their blue reliever inhalers more often as the pollution made them more prone to attacks.

However, Lianne Robinson, an emergency matron at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said staff had not seen any increase in admissions as a result of the smog, which was visible across Pennine Lancashire.

For many elderly residents, the cloud brought back memories of the smoke-saturated sky above former cotton towns such as Blackburn and Burnley in the mid-20th century, when the sun was often never more than a dull orange glow.

Dr Sotiris Vardoulakis, head of the air pollution and climate change group at PHE, said: “Some parts of the country have now recorded very high levels of air pollution. PHE is urging people in those areas to reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if they experience symptoms such as a cough or sore throat.

“Adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, in areas where high levels are recorded should avoid strenuous physical activity.

“People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.”

The smog cloud was forecast to clear today.