The only specialist private clinic for allergy sufferers in the top of the South Island will open today.
GP James Chisnall and paediatrician Garth Smith will provide the first comprehensive allergy service for young children to adults from their clinic in Richmond.
The team will diagnose and treat mild to severe allergy cases from hay fever and hives to venom stings and food allergies in patients referred by GPs.
The clinic will come as a welcome relief to allergy sufferers to find the clinical cause of their allergy.
Marlborough does not have an allergy specialist and children in Blenheim are usually referred to a paediatrician at Wairau Hospital. Adults have been known to go as far as Christchurch and Auckland for treatment, Chisnall said.
There was a risk of people self-diagnosing or turning to alternative therapies for treatment and the clinic would fill a gap in the market.
"There is a significant number of people that suffer in silence," Chisnall said. "Often people with allergies will self-medicate with over-the-counter pharmacy treatments and don't go to their GP. There has been a perception that allergies are in people's heads."
Allergies are becoming more common with evidence linking them to diet, pollution and environment, Chisnall said.
In New Zealand, 40 per cent of children and 30 per cent of adults suffer from hay fever.
"Marlborough is the perfect storm for hay fever sufferers with hot, windy weather in an area surrounded by grassland. People for three to four months each year can't sleep, breath properly or taste food."
The clinic would offer skin and blood tests to find the cause of allergies. It is also the only desensitisation clinic in the South Island offering a long-term solution for hay fever patients. Sufferers are injected with a small amount of grass under their skin over a period of time to increase tolerance levels.
Desensitisation has also been proved to reduce the risk of anaphylactic shock from a wasp sting from 60 per cent to 10 per cent, Chisnall said.
There has already been interest from Blenheim. A woman who would have required treatment in Christchurch was considering the clinic as a possible alternative and an adult male patient from Blenheim had been referred to the clinic by a GP.
"He was going to have to wait for a review in Christchurch that would have taken a long time. I saw him for a severe allergy and was able to offer advice and set out a treatment plan," Chisnall said.
Blenheim mother Lindsey Bartholomew runs an online support group for sufferers with Allergy New Zealand. The clinic would increase awareness in the clinical field.
"Allergies are not well known," Bartholomew said. "It can be hard to pinpoint what is causing a reaction."
Allergy Solutions is a private clinic and does not receive funding from the district health board.
- The Marlborough Express