Don't blame the Wattle: The real causes of hayfever

"Is it the wattle?

Not necessarily, says Associate Professor Janet Davies, from Queensland University of Technology's School of Biomedical Sciences.

Many of us associate hayfever with pollen from trees that come into flower in late winter and early spring (we're looking at you wattle). But wattle may be unfairly maligned in the allergy blame game, Professor Davies says."

"Grass pollen

On the other hand, grass pollen — our most common outdoor airborne allergen — doesn't fall straight down; it gets carried on wind and can travel vast differences. And grasses flower at different times of the year in different parts of the country.

"We don't have a uniform pollen season," says Professor Davies, whose research focuses on grass pollen allergies.

"We have different types of grasses in different places [within Australia] and they have different drivers for production of the pollen in the air."

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Relief in sight for allergy sufferers with new Australia-wide pollen monitoring system

A nationwide program aimed at giving allergy sufferers more advanced warning about the likely seriousness of their symptoms could provide relief to Elly Kirkham and her brother Jake.

The Brisbane siblings both suffer from asthma and allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, while Elly, 18, is at risk of anaphylaxis from peanuts and Jake, 14, from shellfish.

They have suffered from constant runny noses, swelling, and itchy and watery eyes their entire lives.

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Climate change making hay fever worse: report

Australia's hay fever sufferers can expect their torment to last longer and become more intense with climate change, according to researchers at home and abroad.

About one in five Australians are affected by hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, with residents of the ACT reporting the highest proportion and the 25-44 age group most affected, according to Janet Rimmer, a respiratory physician and allergist at St Vincent's Clinic in Sydney.

"Certainly allergic diseases have increased in the past 10 to 20 years," Dr Rimmer, who is also an associate professor at the Sydney Medical School, told Fairfax Media.

One factor may be the southern spread of pollen-rich subtropical grasses, such as the introduced bahia and Bermuda or couch species, which are also common on sport ovals and nature strips. 

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