As Springtime begins, it is important for health professionals to consider the care that may be required for conditions relevant to or anticipated for the season.
Seasonal allergies are expected to affect many Australians in spring. Allergic rhinitis (or hay fever) and asthma can be triggered by the increase of pollen in the air (Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy 2017).
Birds, bees and even the wind spread pollen grains over distances. According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (2017), most of the pollen that causes allergies is ‘produced by airborne pollen from northern hemisphere grasses, trees and weeds’. Interestingly, Australian native plants are less allergenic than some pasture grasses and exotic trees (ASCIA, 2017).
Other than exposure to pollen, allergic rhinitis can symptoms can also be caused by things like dust mites, house hold pets and mould growth. (National Asthma Council Australia 2016).
Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis) Facts
- Around 18% of Australians and New Zealanders are affected by allergic rhinitis, every year
- People who suffer from allergic rhinitis are also predisposed to more frequent sinus infections
- Additionally, people with allergic rhinitis often suffer from fatigue due to their quality of sleep being affected
- Moderate or severe allergic rhinitis is also considered to:
- Impair learning and performance in children
- Result in more frequent absenteeism in adults and reduced productivity
- Cause considerable impairment in quality of life.
Hay Fever and Asthma
Allergic rhinitis can inflame asthma symptoms and be more difficult to control. Additionally, a large majority of around 80% of people with asthma have allergic rhinitis.
Signs and Symptoms of Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)
- Runny or congested nose
- Watery, itchy eyes
- Throat, ear and palate itchiness
- Irritated nasal passages, mouth and throat
- Head-cold symptoms
- Hoarse voice
- Bad breath
- Mouth-breathing, snoring
- Facial pain and pressure
- Frequent middle ear infections
- Daytime tiredness
- Anyone that develops wheezing needs to promptly seek medical attention from a qualified medical doctor for assessment and treatment
(ASCIA, 2017; National Asthma Council Australia, 2016)
Where are Pollen Counts Highest in Australia?
Victoria’s south coast can get high pollen counts from the northerly winds bringing pollen from the grasslands. ASCIA (2017) highlights that eastern Australia is somewhat protected from westerly winds by the Great Dividing Range.
South Australia and Western Australia have varying pollen counts depending on the wind direction. Some of the grasses in southern Australian areas are grasses from the Northern Hemisphere that chiefly flower from October to December (ASCIA, 2017)
From late July to early August, the White Cypress Pine flowers and it is apparently the only Australian tree that has ‘highly allergenic pollen’ (ASCIA, 2017).
Interesting fact: Wattle gets blamed for lots of Spring allergies, but skin prick tests rarely indicate that this is actually to blame (ASCIA, 2017)! Lots of Casuarina and Australian Oak tree species lead to pollen-related year-round allergenic rhinitis – not just Spring allergies (ASCIA, 2017).
Preventing Pollen Exposure
- Wear sunglasses
- Have someone else mow the lawn and stay indoors when the lawn is being mowed
- Have low-allergenic plants in the gardens
- Shut windows and doors of the home, building or car and use recirculated air conditioning
- It is preferable to stick to the coast for holidays, or otherwise not to holiday during pollen-season
- Pollen exposure can apparently be reduced by staying inside the house until after noon
- Avoid going outside when winds or thunderstorms are in progress or have just finished
- Access pollen calendars such as the one available from Allergy.org.
- The National Asthma Council Australia (2016) also state that cigarette smoke should be avoided to prevent allergic rhinitis and asthma; thus, further promoting non-smoking policies. It thereby may be important to encourage health professionals that do smoke to change their clothes before returning to work with clients and other staff members. Likewise, it could be suggested that smoking areas are not near entry points to the healthcare site.
- It could also be suggested that healthcare settings consider having wind-barriers and low-allergenic plants incorporated into their gardens/landscaping.
Treating Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)
Treatment options (ASCIA, 2017) that should occur under the guidance of appropriate medical officers:
- Intranasal corticosteroid nasal sprays
- Decongestant sprays and medications
- Saline nasal sprays or douches
- Desensitisation allergen immunotherapy with a clinical immunology/allergen specialist
- It is important to inform your health practitioners if you are pregnant when seeking treatment for allergic rhinitis and/or asthma
(ASCIA 2017;National Asthma Council Australia, 2016)
For further advice about hay fever, the National Asthma Council Australia recommends:
‘Talk to your doctor or pharmacist
Visit the National Asthma Council Australia website: nationalasthma.org.au
Contact your local Asthma Foundation: 1800 645 130 asthmaaustralia.org.au
Visit the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website: allergy.org.au’
- Australia Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy 2017, Pollen allergy, ASCIA, viewed 21 September 2017, https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergic-rhinitis-hay-fever-and-sinusitis/pollen-allergy
- Australia Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy 2017, Pollen calendar – guide to common allergenic pollen, ASCIA, viewed 21 September 2017, https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergic-rhinitis-hay-fever-and-sinusitis/guide-to-common-allergenic-pollen
- National Asthma Council Australia 2016, Allergic rhinitis (hayfever) and your asthma, viewed 21 September 2017, https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/living-with-asthma/resources/patients-carers/brochures/hay-fever-allergic-rhinitis-and-your-asthma
Madeline Gilkes focused the research project for her master's of healthcare leadership on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. Madeline is also a qualified weight management practitioner and Registered Nurse. Her vision is to prevent lifestyle diseases, obesogenic environments, dementia, and metabolic syndrome. She has a master of healthcare leadership, a graduate certificate in aged care, and a bachelor of nursing. Madeline works as an academic and has spent the past years in the role of clinical facilitator and clinical nurse specialist (gerontology & education). She is due to complete her Graduate Certificate in Adult and Vocational Education at CSU before November 2018.