Gill South: Itching to know more about allergies

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Gill South goes straight to the top for advice on her annoying allergies and learns how to deal with wine blush.

The cause of allergies may be due to everyday household cleaning products said Professor Innes Asher. Photo / Thinkstock
The cause of allergies may be due to everyday household cleaning products said Professor Innes Asher. Photo / Thinkstock

I've decided that when I need advice on health, I'm just going to go to the academic leader in the field. My queries may be naive and quaint for these big brains, but I will go away content that I have the best and latest information.

So I've gone to Professor Innes Asher at the University of Auckland who's been studying asthma and allergies in childhood for 30 years.

She is the senior paediatrician in the respiratory team at Starship Children's Hospital, and has been awarded an Auckland Medical Research Fund grant to find new information about asthma, rhinitis and eczema in the third phase of an international study.

As one who has had asthma, gets eczema from detergents, has an allergy to dust mites, and hayfever, a form of rhinitis, I think she's the woman for me.

I had asthma for a couple of months when living in Glasgow in the 1990s.

A trip back to New Zealand, swimming in the sea, restored me to health and I never had it again. The sea is a natural moist environment, Innes says, approvingly. Cold air is the trigger for asthma, she adds. Glasgow certainly knew how to be chilly though you wouldn't have known that from the short skirts the girls wore on Friday nights.

Meanwhile Auckland has a high level of dust mites because they love the humidity and damp here, says Innes. A wooden floor in the bedroom is advisable.

The nose, Innes tells me, is important. I should be monitoring that I am breathing through my nose, because the nose filters and warms the air on the way to your lungs. It humidifies the air. If the nose is blocked through swelling or mucus, then you tend to breathe through your mouth. But the mouth is not nearly as clever as the nose, it allows cold air to go straight to your lungs. Not good. Do a simple test, she suggests, to check that your nose is clear. Put a tongue depressor or a spoon in your mouth for five minutes and see if you can continue breathing through your nose.

Meanwhile Innes believes a lot of cleaning products are the culprit for allergies and eczema. People are going overboard on using cleaning products, she says. Kitchens are especially "dangerous" places, as they tend to be where people use a multitude of cleaning products. Though some detergents are great for the environment, they are not necessarily great for humans.

I tell the patient Professor about my tendency to blush around the neck and cheeks when I have a glass of wine, especially in winter.

Simple, she says. All the people she knows who have this problem have an antihistamine before partaking. See, these big brains have all the answers.

For anyone with allergies or asthma, Innes directs them to the ISAAC website, where there's lot of excellent tips.

Next Week:

Buying new glasses has always been a trial when seeing is a major challenge, so I enlist the help of a stylist.

- NZ Herald

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