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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People using TERN: Vikram Dhillon

Vikram Dhillon lives in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife, an asthma sufferer, and his three-year-old daughter, a hay fever sufferer.  Dhillon recently contacted TERN to seek information on the distribution of pollen across Australia and New Zealand to investigate the possibility of relocating his family to a more hay fever and asthma friendly city.

‘My daughter gets hay fever during spring and Auckland’s cold and wet winters don’t help things so I am thinking of moving to Australia to help relieve her symptoms,’ writes Dhillon in his email to TERN.

‘I am doing research, mainly via Google, on what would be the best city for people who have hay fever and asthma.  Do you have any recent data that you collected for pollen levels or hay fever/asthma that would help me decide?’

Dhillon’s enquiry was timely, as it coincided with the release of TERN facilitated research on the differences in grass pollen allergen exposure across Australia.

The paper is one output from the Australian aerobiology working group convened through TERN’s ACEAS facility and presents collated and analysed historical published and unpublished pollen count data from different regions of Australia and New Zealand.
 

Click here to view the paper published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health

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