21 Dec Extreme pollen season triggers spike in new hay fever sufferers
Colac’s Liz Drever didn’t always suffer from hay fever. She recalls saying “I am so glad I don’t have hay fever,” seeing the major discomfort her father experienced having hay fever.
During her mid-30s Liz started to develop some hay fever symptoms, which have further progressed as she has become older. “The last three seasons I haven’t been able to step outside without taking preventative measures,” Liz said.
Those measures for Liz include a combination of over-the-counter products including antihistamines, eye drops and nasal spray.
Hay fever affects around 18% of Australians, and around 80% of people with asthma have hay fever.
Symptoms of hay fever can include:
- Runny, itchy, congested nose.
- Irritable, itchy, watery and red eyes.
- Itchy ears, throat and palate.
You may experience hay fever symptoms at certain times of the year (such as in spring or summer), depending on the allergens to which you are sensitive. Hay fever and other allergies can also be affected by your genes.
The last couple of years more people than ever have been experiencing hay fever. This is attributed to three La Nina years in a row. There is tiny, invisible pollen in the air because of the wetter conditions. Pollen from grasses, weeds or trees can trigger symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma.
For Liz, who is also the infection control coordinator at TDHS, the most challenging weather conditions for her condition are when it’s humid or stormy. “I would recommend that people download the Melbourne Pollen Count app, which has been developed by the University of Melbourne and can send you notification alerts,” Liz said. “It definitely helps me taking the preventative measures prior to leaving the house that day,” Liz added.
The pollen season can last for months and usually starts in late winter with trees pollinating and can continue right through until May when flowers and weeds are flowering.
Tips for reducing pollen exposure
- Stay indoors until after midday, particularly in the pollen season and on windy days.
- Avoid going out just before, during, or after thunderstorms, particularly when pollen counts are high.
- Wear sunglasses, carry tissues, shower when you arrive home, and rinse your eyes with water.
- Do not mow grass and stay inside when it is being mown. If mowing is unavoidable, wear a mask or take a non-drowsy antihistamine.
- Keep windows closed at home and in the car. Use recirculating air conditioning in the car.
- Do not picnic in parks or in the country during the pollen season.
- Try to plan holidays out of the pollen season or holiday at the seaside.
- If landscaping at home, research plants less likely to trigger allergic rhinitis or asthma. If you are sensitive to particular weeds or trees that are outside your bedroom window, have them removed.
Most people, like Liz, are able to manage or relieve hay fever on their own. However, you should speak with your doctor about treatment options if your symptoms seem to be:
- persistent, meaning that you experience symptoms at least 4 days in a week, for at least 4 weeks or more
- moderate to severe, meaning that your symptoms affect your sleep and daily activities such as work, school, sport and leisure.
Your doctor can help you by asking you in detail about your symptoms, reviewing your home and work environment for possible triggers, and by assessing how intense your hay fever symptoms are and how much hay fever affects your day-to-day life. They can then organise further tests to investigate possible causes and help you find ways to manage or avoid hay fever in the future. You can contact Timboon Clinic on 5558 6088 to book an appointment.
You can check the Pollen Forecast and Thunderstorm Asthma Forecast at www.melbournepollen.com.au