The runny nose, itchy eye, sneezing hay fever season is back and Whanganui allergy sufferers are really feeling it.
Lesley Roy, manager of Wicksteed Pharmacy, said although it was a normal time of year to have allergies, a number of people seen in the pharmacy in the past few weeks were suffering quite severely from hay fever symptoms.
"I think Whanganui is known as a hot spot for allergies, due to the pollen around."
Roy said the most common symptom she was seeing this season was watery, itchy, red eyes.
Penny Jorgensen, allergy adviser at Allergy New Zealand, said pollen allergy was the cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis, better known as hay fever, and while people can be allergic to tree or weed pollens, grass pollen allergy was the most common.
The season begins around October and extends through to the end of summer.
"It is likely the pollen season is becoming longer in New Zealand with climate change and there are some studies suggesting that, when exposed to warmer temperatures and higher levels of CO2, plants grow more vigorously and produce more pollen than they otherwise would."
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She said the reason grass pollen affected so many people was that the grass was widespread across the country and, due to a windy climate, the fine lightweight grass pollen could be blown a long way, making it difficult to avoid.
Jorgensen said avoiding exposure to grass pollen depended on the time of day and the weather conditions, with higher exposure in the early morning when plants released their pollen.
"We recommend keeping windows closed in the early morning, and staying indoors particularly on windy days. Keep car windows closed and use an allergen filter on air conditioning."
She also suggests trying to avoid outdoor activities where there was a lot of grass.
Pine needles from Christmas trees may also affect allergy sufferers.
However, Jorgensen said pine pollen may cause skin symptoms on contact but was not a common cause of hay fever because the pollen was too large to be breathed into the airways to set off allergic rhinitis.
Alongside itchy runny eyes, other systems of allergic rhinitis are sneezing, a blocked nose, feeling hot and flushed in the face.
Roy said anyone experiencing these symptoms could discuss them with their pharmacist who could try to identify trigger factors.
"Different people have different trigger factors - we discuss with them what the best option is for them and if in the past they've found something that works for them then that's possibly where they should continue."
She said another key reason to check with a pharmacist was to make sure interaction with other medication was not causing allergies.
Jorgensen said medications include intranasal corticosteroid sprays that help to reduce the inflammation in the nose so the pollen cannot be absorbed so easily and set off reactions.
Antihistamines can also be prescribed that may help reduce symptoms for a short period of time.