‘Double whammy’ influenza, hayfever strikes
A "DOUBLE whammy" of the horror flu outbreak and an early start to hayfever season has left tens of thousands of people short of breath, coughing and spluttering.
Hay fever sufferers who have been hit early are now being warned to ensure their "survival plans" are in place, given the peak of the season is still weeks away.
And influenza continues to spread, with more than 13,200 people diagnosed in Queensland and NSW in the past week alone. Asthma Australia chief executive Michele Goldman said that people were being hit by a "double whammy" of influenza and hay fever. About 80 per cent of asthma sufferers also have hay fever.
"If both (flu) virus and pollens are a problem for you than this is going to be a pretty miserable time of the year, especially with the extension of the flu season," Ms Goldman said.
Hay fever seriously irritates people's noses, throats, eyes and ears while asthma and influenza attack their lungs. In serious cases influenza can infects the heart or brain and become deadly.
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia president Maria Said said the hay fever season started early in the last weeks of August. "We have had people already complaining about severe hay fever," she said.
More than three million Australians suffer from hay fever and more than 137,566 people have been diagnosed with influenza in the current outbreak - more than half in NSW, where nearly 70,000 people have been sick during the worst flu season on record.
"There are still people coming down with the flu and there are people who have got terrible hay fever - especially with the wind we've had in recent weeks their hay fever is just out of control," Ms Said said.
She said that hay fever was a debilitating allergic reaction which can persist for weeks and in severe cases cause chest tightness and breathing difficulties. "You are thinking through a fog - it does affect your quality of life, your sleep, you don't feel like socialising, you feel pretty awful and are constantly blowing your nose to clear your head," she said.
Campbelltown Hospital immunology and allergy unit head Dr Connie Katelaris warned hay fever season would worsen as grass pollen increases over coming weeks.
"We haven't hit the peak of the grass pollen, which is when majority of people are affected," she said. "If people are starting now it just primes them and they will be worse as the season progresses."
The hay fever season typical starts as temperatures ramp up and grasses flower in late September, with the peak in late October. Dr Katelaris warned the season may have a "long tail" with late flowering extending the season.
Dr Katelaris runs the state's only pollen monitoring system which sends out daily warnings on the levels and type of pollen sufferers can expect.
She said while this season won't be as bad as 2016, sufferers should not ignore any symptoms: "When not handled well you end up in difficult problems if we have an unusual or rare weather event."