One of the warmest winters on record even has the flowers fooled. And with gardens already filled with the aromas of spring, allergy and hay fever sufferers are also bracing themselves as the first day of the new season arrives.
Experts say most people with hay fever remain undiagnosed and many never seek help for the condition – potentially putting themselves at risk of interrupted sleep, shortness of breath and low energy.
The risks are particularly serious for people with asthma, who can experience dangerous exacerbations in their condition.
Early results from an international study including Australians have found up to 90 per cent of asthmatics have hay fever.
The team eventually hopes to recruit 5000 people worldwide and is looking for people who have nasal congestion to take part.
Hay fever – technically known as allergic rhinitis – is one of the most common chronic respiratory conditions, affecting about 15 per cent of the population.
”It has been shown that if you’re not being treated optimally for hay fever, it can impact on your asthma control,” Dr Bosnic-Anticevich said.
Typical hay fever symptoms are a blocked or runny nose, itchy, watery eyes and sneezing but she said the condition can also cause recurrent headaches, sleep disturbance and lack of energy.
”Pollens are very common triggers,” she said. ”House dust, pet allergens and mould also contribute.”
Dr Bosnic-Anticevich’s 15-year-old son, Grant, was living with a blocked nose for years, which affected his ability to play competitive basketball. Otherwise healthy and active, it took a visit to the doctor a year ago to uncover he had persistent hay fever.
”Kids aren’t often good at knowing they have symptoms unless they’re really bad,” Dr Bosnic-Anticevich said.
”It was only once he started taking the nasal spray that he realised how much easier it was to breathe, sleep and play sport.”