14 Jan 2016

Summer: Sun, surf, sand ... and sneezes

7:22 am on 14 January 2016

Summer is a time for sun, surf and sand but if you're allergy prone, it's also a time when hayfever can make life pretty unpleasant.

Woman sneezing among flowers.

It's hayfever season. Photo: 123RF

An estimated 400,000 New Zealanders suffer from allergies and, with an acute lack of specialists, there can be long delays for treatment - if it's even available.

Allergy New Zealand chief executive Mark Dixon said there were a handful of allergy specialists nationwide but the difficulty was getting in to see them.

Allergies such as hayfever and to dust mites could be treated with oral immunotherapy but that cost about $3500 and took years, he said.

Antihistamines were the answer for some but they did not always work for severe sufferers.

"They'll know from their GP which antihistamines are best suited for them. Unfortunately for severe sufferers, antihistamines don't quite cut it and so you're pretty much staying in doors where you can and staying clear of parks and grass pollen," Mr Dixon said.

Grass pollen was the most common type of pollen to set off hayfever, and the allergy season ran from September until March, depending on the heat and whether plants were still producing pollen.

"It's pretty miserable for them [sufferers]. It's a grind, it's not like a cold, where you can tolerate and know that in two weeks you can shake it off. This is every day that these people are waking up with the same symptoms.

"Most of them are managing them through the day. It's not very pleasant, but they will manage them through the day and everyday, for that period."

Allergy sufferers were not asking for special attention but would love more tolerance and understanding of their condition, Mr Dixon said.