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ALLERGY sufferers are already sniffling as an unseasonally warm winter sparks early pollen blooms in trees across NSW.
Strong winds this week have also added to the allergy miseries, spreading the results of the early blooms.
“In the early part of spring we see trees will release their pollens, but we have trees pollinating early,” leading allergist and immunologist Professor Pete Smith said.
Sydney Pollen Count’s Professor Connie Katelaris said both native and exotic trees in our gardens are to blame.
“We’ve got casuarinas and pine trees starting to pollinate and all the park trees, the European trees like oak and elm and birch, they are all starting to let out their pollen,” Prof Katelaris said.
“People blame the wattle because it’s flowering everywhere but it’s not a particularly serious allergen.”
Prof Katelaris said the warm late winter had played a big role in the early blooming but it was exacerbated by the wind. On Friday, Sydney recorded gusts of about 100km/h — blowing the pollen around.
Sydney’s average top temperature for August is 17C with minimums of 8C but most days this year have been from 19C up to 26C.
Luckily for sufferers, grasses across the state have not yet joined trees in pollinating.
The peak for grass pollination, a serious allergen, is October and November but Prof Katelaris said grasses would start being a problem in September this year.
The peak for grass pollination, a serious allergen, is October and November but Prof Katelaris said we should start to see grasses causing problems in September this year.
“Allergens aggravate and irritate the upper airways, we breath 10,000—12,000L of air a day and we breath up to 100 million molecules per breath so our upper airways are there to detect danger and respond to it and some people’s airways over-respond,” Prof Smith said.
Recent research shows people that suffer allergic rhinitis, which causes runny or blocked nose and itchy eyes, also suffer more anxiety because it affects sleep.
Newcastle hayfever sufferer Janet Roper Clark said she had been sniffling and crying for three weeks, much earlier than usual.
“My eyes have kept running to the point it is embarrassing and my nose is running and I have an itchy sore throat and it’s just come on in the last three weeks. It’s been horrendous,” the 58-year-old said
“I usually get it in spring when someone first mows their lawn, but you only have to look at the trees to see all the fluffy stuff flying around. This is the worst I’ve had it in eight years.”
While pharmacy shelves are stocked with hundreds of preparations to alleviate the misery for sufferers, Prof Smith said few people get the over the counter medication right.
“The treatment of allergies is the second or third most profitable line in pharmacies. You go to the chemist to get advice and you get the junior sales assistant with no medical training on how to treat allergies and will rely on the TV advertising and go for antihistamines, but most antihistamines only improve symptoms by 7 to 10 per cent,” Prof Smith said.
“Topical nasal steroids work far better and mimic what the body does in a stress response but rather than having your whole body stressed out, you just use it nasally on an area about the size of 50 cents and people can breathe again.
“If you put antihistamine head to head with nasal steroids, you are far better off taking a nasal steroid for symptom relief, they work better.
“Using saline rinses also seems to help, you can get squeeze bottles to rinse out the nose and that rinses out the allergic response which causes symptoms as well.”