Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Itchy woes when it gets windy

Dry, windy weather is causing problems for hay-fever victims in Hawke's Bay.

A local pharmacist blames westerly winds carrying pollen for leaving many people with itchy eyes, runny noses and sneezing.

One expert warned severe symptoms could increase the risk of crashing while driving and cause problems for romantics.

Glenns Pharmacy owner Glenn Roberts said between 15 and 20 people visited his Taradale pharmacy on particularly windy mornings during the hay-fever season, which usually ran from late October to the end of summer. "We can have Saturday mornings when the wind blows and you can see them come in eyes blinking and you know what they want."

Allergy specialist Dr Allen Liang said symptoms caused many problems. "If you sneeze a lot, it can be dangerous for the driver and the public as well because you are actually temporarily blinded when you sneeze." Constant rubbing of itchy eyes could also damage the cornea, he said.

Interactions with the opposite sex might also be threatened.

"For example, whenever somebody came near a highly fragrant female and started to sneeze their head off then they cannot kiss properly," Dr Liang said.

It could also distract people from work and cause sleeplessness.

The Auckland Allergy Clinic said about 40 per cent of Kiwis were estimated to suffer from the condition.

Dr Liang said "hay fever" usually referred to a variety of allergens. People could react to pollen, dust mites and animal dander - not only hay, he said.

"It should be called allergic rhinitis, which means the allergic reaction of the lining of the nose.

"This actually is a body defence to try to wash out the things that irritate the body."

Sufferers should see their GP and, if needed, a specialist to ease symptoms, he said.

Fees for a specialist consultation vary widely among practices, but most people should expect to pay around $300, Dr Liang said.

Follow-up appointments would normally range between $120 to $150.

Victims should also beware of "cheap traps" offering a quick and easy cure for allergies.

"There are some people who claim to be able to test everything under the sun for allergies if you send a specimen of hair to an overseas laboratory.

"It is a charlatan-type of territory."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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