In a country known for its warm, outdoor lifestyle, it's no wonder why allergies are a concern for a large percentage of Australians. For around 19% of Australia’s adult population, allergies put a huge dampener on the joy of spring picnics, bushwalks and even spending time in the garden.
What is an allergy?
Allergies occur when a person’s immune system reacts to substances (allergens) that are harmless for most people. Most commonly, allergies can trigger a flare-up of eczema, hives or asthma, while hayfever can cause runny or itchy nose, throat or eyes to those sensitive to allergens such as pollen, mould, dust mites, animal hair, chemicals and pollution.
Common causes of allergies in Australia
- Hayfever - There are two main types of hayfever,
- Seasonal allergic rhinitis, which is widespread in spring, early summer and autumn, when the air is thick with pollen from trees, grasses and mould spores,
- Perennial Allergic rhinitis, caused by house dust mite, dander and mould spores, and made worse by tobacco smoke, perfumes and air pollution. Read more about hayfever symptoms here.
- Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis - caused by pollen, dust and plants, which can cause symptoms as mild as eye redness, and as severe and debilitating as swelling of the eyelids, conjunctivae and a sensation of grittiness and burning.
- Mould growth - specifically when a mould source is disturbed and small particles called spores are released in the air, which can then trigger allergy symptoms. The symptoms can include nose, eye and skin irritation, sneezing or wheezing, and severe reactions in some people.
- Dust mites - specifically the little particles that are found amongst the dust such as human skin cells, animal hair, insect waste, including from house dust mites, food particles and particles from cleaning products.
- Animal hair - Pet dogs and cats are the most common cause of pet allergies. Furry little friends such as guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, mice and rats can also trigger allergies in some people.
- Chemicals (non-sensitive cleaning products) - Exposure to certain chemicals may cause reactions similar to those experienced with allergies. Chemicals that may cause sensitivity include synthetic and natural substances found in: Carpeting, Plastics, Perfumes, Plants, Paint and Cigarette smoke.
What are the most common allergy symptoms?
- Itchy, red, swollen or watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Itchy ears, nose, throat
- Nasal congestion
- Eczema, hives or asthma
- Swelling of the lips, face, or eyes
How to manage allergies in Australia
Avoiding the allergen that triggers your symptoms is usually the best way to manage an allergy. While it may be impossible to avoid the beloved family pet, or relocate from a pollen-filled local area, taking steps to reduce your exposure may help.
- Avoid or minimise exposure to allergens that you know will trigger a reaction
- Use Sensitive Choice-approved cleaning products to remove dust and mould from the home
- Keep pets outside during moulting season
- Keep your house closed up on warm, windy days
- Avoid outdoor activity when the pollen count is high. If you live in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or Canberra, check the pollen forecast during the main pollen season for your local information.
- Seek the help of your GP to manage conditions and prescribe treatment
All content and advice are provided on behalf of Sensitive Choice, an initiative of the National Asthma Council Australia, in partnership with Kleenex®. The advice provided in this material is general in nature and is not intended as medical advice. If you need medical advice, please consult your health care professional.
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