Authors:
Ed Newbigin

Ed Newbigin
Associate Professor of Botany at University of Melbourne

Simon Haberle

Simon Haberle
Professor at Australian National University


For many, spring is the most agreeable time of year. But for one in six people (around three million Australians), this balmiest of seasons is rendered utterly miserable by allergic rhinitis or hay fever. A chronic condition that reduces the quality of life of sufferers in multiple ways, hay fever is also associated with asthma.

For a small handful of Australians, including the two of us, spring also marks the start of the pollen counting season with its daily rituals of collecting slides, counting and identifying pollen, and tallying the results. We are the pollen counters for Melbourne and Canberra. Most other cities in Australia either don’t have pollen counters, or have sporadic ones.

Authors:
Janet Davies

Janet Davies
Senior Research Fellow, Lung and Allergy Research Centre at The University of Queensland

Connie Katelaris

Connie Katelaris
Professor of Immunology and Allergy, UWAS & Head of Unit at South Western Sydney Local Health District


Three million Australian adults – 15% of the population – struggle through spring and summer with watery eyes, running nose, itchy throat and the hallmark hay fever symptom, sneezing.

When people with hay fever are exposed to particular pollens, their body mistakenly thinks this is a threat and triggers an allergic reaction. Inflammatory cells quickly release mediators such as histamine and that’s when the symptoms kick in.

In some people with hay fever, pollen allergens can trigger allergic symptoms in the lower airways as well as the nose, making it difficult to breathe. Under certain climatic conditions, such as after thunderstorms, pollen allergy can trigger asthma attacks, even in those without a history of asthma.

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