Hay fever, aka seasonal allergic rhinitis, is a very uncomfortable, and frustrating condition that effects thousands of Kiwis. The swollen, wet, and itchy sensations in the nose, throat, and ear are a regular problem for an estimated 1 in 5 New Zealanders.  In extreme cases, it may lead to noticeable facial swelling (some describe looking like they’ve been punched in the face) and dark circles underneath the eyes.  This is because the body is fighting against a perceived threat: an allergen!

According to the Auckland Allergy Clinic website, the plants that were introduced to the island, rather than native plants, are the main sources of pollen allergies.  Perennial ryegrass is the number one culprit, and it emits a great deal of springtime pollen.  The English plantain is noted as a ubiquitous weed seen in lawns, parks, and along the roadside.  Even though it only emits a small amount of pollen, the intensity of the response in hay fever sufferers is typically dramatic.  Birch is noted as an overlooked source of troublesome pollen, as well as cedar, and less so, pine.  Wattle, or the romanticized acacia, produces troublesome pollen in New Zealand June through August.

Treatment Possibilities

Some Kiwis swear by the efficacy of hyposensitization treatment, or allergy shots.  This is when you speak to an allergist, submit to a skin prick test, and become involved in a plan targeting the specific 1-3 sources of your allergy that are most problematic.  It may require a program of up to two years of regular shots, and cost thousands of dollars, but most who have gone through it report a highly improved quality of life, and no more need for antihistamines or decongestants to counter or reduce the symptoms of hay fever.

Nasal sprays and corticosteroids can be used to achieve the desired effect of reducing the watery output from the mucous membranes in one’s head.  The benefits of natural substances such as horseradish and garlic, in many cases outweigh the risks, since the potential side effects of natural remedies are significantly less intimidating than those associated with most pharmaceutical products.

The price of over-the-counter medicines for treating the symptoms is rather high in New Zealand.  Whether you purchase name brand or generic (think Zyrtec or Loratadine), on the internet or at the chemist, the pharmaceutical companies must offset the cost of shipping their product to the relatively small and remote market by raising prices.  Overly expensive pharmaceutical treatment options are less likely when looking at prescription drugs, however.

Prevention Tips

How much pollen your eyes and nose come into contact with is directly linked to the appearance of hay fever symptoms.  This, of course, will vary from place to place, day to day, and season to season.  Coastal areas, from small places like New Plymouth to larger ones like Nelson, Christchurch or Wellington seem to have an advantage, because less of the surrounding area is full of vegetation.  As well, wind that blows inland may effectively take pollen with it.

Keeping the windows closed and using air conditioning when possible (in the car, too), plus avoiding grassy areas or mowing, especially on very windy days, are good tips to follow if you know your hay fever is seasonal and pollen-related.  Inside, be sure to use a good HEPA filter vacuum, avoid having items that collect dust, wash fabrics exposed to pollen often, and exercising careful damp dusting techniques.  Changing filters in your heater and/or air conditioner on a regular basis and purchasing hypoallergenic bedding could also contribute to a more symptom-free life.

Other Countries and Hay Fever

 

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The below comments were posted prior to the website being rebuilt in July 2017:

#1 lilly monks 2013-06-22 22:51

Hay fever is more prevalent in people who are physically inactive. Get fit, lose the fever. There are several medication to treat symptoms of seasonal allergies (hay fever) like allegra.