'Tis the Season - for allergies

As many of us start to enjoy some warmer weather, there are others who will view it with trepidation. For many people in Australia with asthma or hay fever, August to March and sometimes up to May, (or the dry season in tropical areas) is a challenging time. 

In these months there is often an increased amount of pollen in the air, which can make life a bit uncomfortable. 

The word pollen is derived from the Greek word meaning 'fine flour' and the role of the pollen grain is to fertilise the female flower to reproduce plant species.

Pollen grains can be spread by birds, insects (bees, butterflies and moths), and wind.

Problems with pollen are usually caused by grasses, weeds, and trees which are wind-pollinated. Australian native plants are usually less of an issue, although there are a few exceptions such as the Cypress Pine and Australian Oak. 

Around two out of five Australians have allergies, including most people with asthma. Allergies tend to run in families but family members may not have the same response.

Allergies occur when a person’s immune system reacts to substances (allergens) that are harmless to most people.

Some common symptoms associated with grass and pollen allergies are;

  • Wheezing or other symptoms of asthma (cough, shortness of breath, and a tight chest) during spring and/or summer with no reason you can think of 
  • Runny, itchy, or blocked nose 
  • Irritable, itchy, watery, and red eyes 
  • Itchy ears, throat or the top part of the mouth called the palate

If you notice any of these symptoms around this time of year, have a discussion with your doctor. Your doctor can help you to manage these symptoms or refer you for testing or to a specialist if needed. 

Luckily, there’s medications available that can help relieve the symptoms of allergic reactions. A lot of these are available without prescription and when used correctly, can provide great relief.

These include antihistamine tablets, nose sprays and sinus rinses. For more severe cases, doctors are able to provide more effective solutions or refer you for specialist treatment. 

An alternative to medication or treatment, is reducing triggers or your exposure to them:

  • Stay indoors until after midday, particularly in the pollen season and on windy days.
  • Avoid going out 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 which are 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.

Although seasonal allergies can be frustrating and uncomfortable, the great news is that they’re a sure sign that summer is on the way! 

Please note

This information is not intended to replace that provided by a registered healthcare professional. If you have questions relating to your personal health and allergies, we recommend contacting your General Practitioner.