Health expert shares how to tackle hay fever this spring
If you sneezed your way through the last few days, you are not alone. About 4.6 million Australians are thought to suffer from hay fever (allergic rhinitis), with numbers continuing to grow.
Sneezing, runny nose and itchy-watery eyes are just some of the symptoms of hay fever.
It can be worse at this time of year due to allergic reactions to tree, grass or weed pollen. It can seriously affect people with lung conditions like asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
“Hay fever can hit at any time of year but it can be worse in Western Australia in the winter months and spring when tree and grass pollen is high,” Professor Yuben Moodley, respiratory doctor and researcher, from the Institute for Respiratory Health said.
“While it can be a mild condition for some, it can be debilitating for others, having an impact on their work and social lives.
“Medications like antihistamines and nasal sprays do help to reduce symptoms but many people don’t realise they need to start taking them in advance of the pollen season,” Professor Moodley said.
“The best thing is to be prepared. If you get hay fever on a regular basis you need to start taking antihistamines up to four weeks before you normally get symptoms.
“And with nasal sprays, it can take up to two weeks before you see results, so you need to start using before spring kicks in.
“You need to continue to take these medications on a daily basis. To reduce asthma attacks you should carry your reliever inhaler with you every day and take any preventer or maintenance treatments as prescribed.
Research shows that climate change is also impacting those with hay fever. Many people feel like their allergies have got worse over the years.
“With climate change, we’re seeing earlier springs and later winters,” Professor Moodley said.
“The seasons are getting hotter with more pollen and longer, more intense pollination seasons.”
Professor Moodley’s tips for managing allergic rhinitis during the pollen season include:
- Continue to take your preventer medication for asthma and hay fever, to reduce the likelihood of flare-ups.
- Be aware of high pollen days. There are several pollen monitoring apps and websites including Auspollen – but they don’t cover all states.
- Nasal sprays can help, check out Asthma Australia’s tips on nasal sprays.
- Work with your GP on a clear action plan and when it might be time to see someone for specialist treatment like immunotherapy.
- If your house is already clean getting rid of carpets, and using hypoallergenic pillow coverings and special air filters will have very little impact. But it will blow out your wallet.