Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

A mild flu season - but hayfever on way

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Rotorua Hospital. PHOTO/FILE
Rotorua Hospital. PHOTO/FILE

Rotorua appears to have escaped the worst of the winter bugs- but spring is set to bring its own illnesses including the return of hayfever.

Rotorua Hospital, local GP practices and Toi Te Ora - Public Health Service have all reported quieter than normal winters with fewer cases of influenza and complications from winter illness.

Toi Te Ora medical officer of Health Dr Phil Shoemack said the regional influenza data had showed no dramatic peak in flu cases, as was often seen.

He said it had been a relatively mild winter in terms of both the number of cases and the severity of those cases but it was difficult to know the reason why.

"It's just the way things go."

Dr Shoemack said he expected the worst of the flu season was over.

"Some years ago the peak was September but that was very unusual."

He said usually in spring there was an increase in illness related to contact with farm animals.

Three Lakes Clinic GP Dr Cate Mills said they had seen less illness and less flu over the winter months.

She said they were hopeful that was because of the uptake of the influenza vaccine.

Dr Mills said patients were taking responsibility for preventing illnesses and changing their focus to look at keeping well.

She said the practice still saw the normal coughs and colds, but not so many complications.

"It was a bit quieter than a normal winter, we certainly haven't seen the complications of respiratory illness."

However, the warmer weather had seen the season spike in hayfever and lots of runny noses and complications from them.

Dr Mills said there had been an increase in gastroenteritis as well as "quite a bit" of hand, foot and mouth around at the moment.

Dr Sally Hoskins from Te Ngae Medical Centre said the practice had a slightly quieter winter, but also a later winter in terms of illnesses.

She said in the past two or three weeks they had been busier with bronchitis, chesty viruses and prolonged coughs.

Ranolf Medical Centre nurse practioner Ros Rowarth agreed that while the practice had been busy, there were fewer flu cases.

She said hayfever was common at this time of year.

"You can see the swathes of pollen on the cars and the sidewalk."

The start of summer also saw an increase in stomach bugs, especially with the start of barbecue season, she said.

Ms Rowarth said spring was often a time when people got caught out with the first sunburn and it was a good opportunity to check expiry dates on sunscreen and get skin checks done.

Lakes District Health Board communications officer Sue Wilkie said it was a fairly quiet winter compared to recent years in terms of emergency department presentations.

Numbers at Rotorua Hospital's emergency department were down 9 per cent this winter compared to the same time last year.

In the three months from June to August, there were 11,208 presentations to the emergency department compared with 11,805 the previous years.

Miss Wilkie said hospital staff didn't seem to think there had been many, "if any", cases of influenza.

She said adult acute admissions for the same three month period sat at 4210 - slightly down on the 4395 the previous year.

However, Miss WIlkie said while overall hospital occupancy levels for the three months were lower, birthing, perinatal and paediatrics had higher than usual occupancy.

Spring wellness tips
- Check sunscreen expiry dates before use.
- The barbecue season sees a return of gastro illnesses. Watch food hygiene.
- Hand washing can prevent complications from hayfever.
- Spring is a good time for skin checks.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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