Many people do not recognise that hayfever, otherwise known as Allergic Rhinitis, is one of the most common chronic respiratory conditions in Australia with an estimated 3.2 million sufferers (AIHW 2010). It causes serious annoyance – the sneezing and itching and irritation is one thing but the chronic blocked nose, snoring + mouth breathing, fatigue and sinus infections is often under-reported! Even your GP may not know yet about the evolving field of AIR allergy and it’s serious complications – especially to kids! Air allergy is a new field requiring a multidisciplinary approach between GP’s, ENT, allergy, sleep medicine, orthodontists and oromyofacial therapists.
But it is the serious chronic presentations of hayfever that really interfere with day to day living leading to poor sleep, poor concentration, poorer work performance and even time off school or work. Not to mention the orthodontic bills parents have to cope with when they finally recognize that hay fever was the original cause of their child’s blocked nose which led them to mouth breathe which led to the tongue thrust and now changes in the development of their palate, jaw and face (Page and Mahoney 2010).
In addition to reducing quality of life, hay fever is also linked with the development of asthma, especially for kids. Approximately 2 million Aussies suffer from asthma and an estimated 700, 000 will have both hayfever and asthma (AIHW 2010). In fact, there is very good evidence that patients with hayfever and asthma have asthma symptoms are more difficult to control compared with patients with just asthma alone! (Van den Berfe et. al. 2002) and we also now know that treating hayfever will in fact reduce emergency department hospital presentations for asthmatics. Makes sense to treat, right!
So basically, allergy testing for hayfever and treating hayfever is so much more important than many people recognize. Its certainly not something to be left to just chance or a last minute over the counter pick -up from the late night chemist. It requires air allergy testing and monitoring for the complications of air allergy and getting serious about treatment with a proper chronic disease management plan rather than a just “take this spray and see how you go!”
Really effective new treatments are now available (and guess what, not just DRUGS too!) which can effectively treat allergic rhinitis (as well as asthma). With more and more immunotherapy options available to desensitize against allergens like pollen and dust mite (even in tablet and drop formulations) and UV intranasal phototherapy (Rhinolight) to assist with symptom control, there is more to offer than just anti- histamines and nasal sprays that you can get from a chemist. Mind you, evidence that treating allergic rhinitis particularly with intranasal corticosteroids, can reduce asthma related hospital visits (Walls R et al) is still a strong first line treatment.
Putting up with hayfever is a serious no no! People should really start seeing that air allergy is growing (WAO, 2015) really fast, just as much as food allergy! While we are all getting educated about food allergies and how they can be life threatening, people shouldn’t under-estimate the life threatening effects of air allergy. Thunderstorm asthma kills! Yes, Thunderstorm Asthma is real and likley to get worse (WAO, 2015) and the biggest risk factor for it is…..hayfever.
My best advice – if you want to get the mos tcurrent advice and not get the run-around, see GP’s who understand allergy, the serious complications of air allergy and can connect you with the right tream of specialists. Remember, breathing is life and we shouldn’t take breathing for granted.
Dr Suzan Bekir is a General practitioner with private practice in Double Bay and who works at Australian Allergy Centre and collective.care Allergy/ENT. Bella Vista, Wollongong, Edgecliff. Bulk Billing air allergy testing available. 1300 344 325 for appointments.