Australia suffering through hayfever hell this season

Spring has sprung across the country, bringing with it a beautiful landscape of blooming trees and bright yellow canola fields, but for up to one in five Australians it also brings allergies.

Sneezing, itchy eyes, headaches and runny noses are just some of the symptoms of hay fever that seem to be hitting people harder than ever this season, and its impacts are being felt nationwide.

South Australians have been warned of a coming “vicious” hayfever season, alerts have been issued for hayfever sufferers in the Northern Territory and Victorians have been urged to stay indoors due to extreme pollen counts.

So, what, if anything, is causing these worsening hayfever conditions this year?

Melbourne Pollen plant cell biologist Edwin Lampugnani said there was a reason things were appearing so grim this season across the country.

“The reason why people are feeling like that is that it’s the earliest start to the season on record,” he said.

“We’ve been operating for about 50 years, we’ve got records going back 30 years, and this was the earliest start.

“It started even prior to October, which is extremely unusual. And because we’ve seen a lot more high end extreme days since October, people will be experiencing a lot more symptoms than they are used to by this time of the year.”

Pollen is the main trigger of hayfever for sufferers, so when pollen counts are high, so are allergies.

Dr Lampugnani said Australians tended to battle with one pollen in particular.

“The biggest issue in Australia is grass pollen, so lots of people are allergic to grass pollen and not so many people are allergic to tree pollen,” he said.

Due to the changes in grass across the country, certain areas will have hayfever symptoms peak before others.

“The further north that you go, you get a change in the type of grass pollen, so you go from those temperate grasses to those tropical grasses,” Dr Lampugnani said.

“We get that peak from October to December (in Victoria), that’s a period where we have to pay special attention.

“But as you go up north to say Queensland, for example, the season’s delayed, so it doesn’t start until November, December, January.

“They also tend to see a secondary peak, which occurs sort in March and so there’s a double-up the north get.”

For that reason, weather is the driving force behind any hayfever surge. The same way that weather will affect your lawn or garden, it also impacts pasture grasses.

The wet weather that came with La Nina was conducive for grass pollen, according to Dr Lampugnani, so we will some relief as we shift to an El Nino system.

In the meantime, to keep an eye on pollen levels in your area head to | @JordoMc85

Originally published as Australia suffering through hayfever hell

Cristeen Gonzama

Cristeen Gonzales writes about health and medicine. She tends toward stories that reveal the on-the-ground impact of health policy, with a particular focus on the opioid epidemic, Covid-19 and abortion.

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