Spring is here and, despite the cold weather, the spring flowers are coming up.
Along with spring comes the familiar story of blocked or runny noses, sneezing, sore and itchy eyes and maybe a headache. When we suggest that the culprit is hayfever and not a cold or whatever has laid low your friends or flatmates, the common response is “but I don’t get hayfever!” Most people are allergic to something (exams, cleaning, cooking). Hayfever is an allergic response, often to the new growth that comes with spring and the subsequent release of pollen into the air. In New Zealand, the most common causes of hay fever are rye grass (widely used for lawns and paddocks), English plantain (a weed found in parks and lawns) and the silver birch tree, many of which are planted around campus.
Students coming to Dunedin may never have experienced hayfever before. New surroundings bring new allergens. It can take up to three years to become sensitised to the pollen, which is just long enough to get a degree. And for those who have asthma, there is a link: up to 40 percent of people who have allergies will go on to develop asthma, a similar but more serious condition that affects the lungs.
So what to do? In the first instance, get some advice and take a suitable antihistamine on a daily basis. The older sedating antihistamines will have you snoring on the library table, which won’t give you the best results for the October exams! The newer, non-sedating antihistamines have very few side effects, and are safe to take on a daily basis for a few months. If the symptoms are not relieved, add in a steroid nasal spray. A few sniffs daily of the right medicine will contain the eye and nose problems effectively, although it may take a week or two to kick in.