Beware risky drugs, hayfever sufferers told

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 11/01/2013
Masterton’s Sam Curtis, who has hayfever
LOREN DOUGLAS/Fairfax NZ
NO EASY FIX: Masterton’s Sam Curtis, who has hayfever, suffers from the effects of his allergies every day. 

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Dry and windy conditions are causing havoc for hayfever sufferers enduring one of the longest and worst seasons.

As the sneezing season drags on, those battling the allergies are looking for stronger medication, but doctors warn that some treatments are not worth the risks.

The steroid injection Kenacort has been on the market for years, but few know about it because many doctors steer clear of it.

Masterton hayfever sufferer Sam Curtis used Kenacort as a child to relieve his symptoms. He was told by his doctor it was not a long-term fix.

With his allergies significantly affecting his day-to-day life and at times making competitive sport impossible, he, along with many others who contacted The Dominion Post, is desperate for a solution.

Newtown doctor Don Simmerman said some people were definitely experiencing worse symp toms and the traditional "hayfever season" had extended.

He accepts Kenacort was life-changing for some sufferers, but said overuse could lead to osteoporosis and diabetes.

"I fall into the camp of using it occasionally because it provides an easy way of getting things under control.

"But it is a steroid and most doctors would balk at the idea of giving it to someone regularly during the hayfever season."

Because hayfever is viewed as more of an "annoyance condition" than a serious illness, many doctors do not see the point in taking unnecessary risks. Island Bay doctor Helen Rodenburg is wary of the injection and says the side effects and risks associated with it outweigh the benefits.

"Kenacort is like an off-licence for hayfever. Some people find it useful but there are alternatives that don't have the side effects."

Dr Rodenburg said she would not prescribe the injection unless the patient was well aware of the risks and requested it.

The hayfever season usually runs from November to February, but for many the dry and blustery weather in much of the country was making things worse.

Mr Curtis, who was battling with allergies daily, was regularly lethargic because of his hayfever and struggles during cricket training because of scratchy eyes.

"At training the other night we were right next to some willow trees and I just had to pull out because it's impossible to bat or bowl when you can't see anything and can't stop sneezing."

After years of experimenting with different medications, Hamish Woodman found a pollen-free sanctuary by moving to the capital.

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"The reason I'm living in Wellington is because my hayfever is much more bearable here," he said.

Mr Woodman previously used Kenacort, but now leaves it as a last resort after developing achy joints and putting on weight from the injection.

HANDLE HAYFEVER

Keep windows closed at night.

Minimise early-morning activity when pollen is most usually emitted (between 5am and 10am).

Keep car windows closed and use air-conditioning on re-circulated air rather than air from outside.

Stay indoors when the pollen count or humidity is high and on windy days when dust and pollen are whipped about.

Stay away from high-pollen areas such as farms and orchards.

Wear glasses outdoors to protect your eyes.

Mow lawns often to avoid flowering.

Select garden plants that are low pollen producers, usually native species.

Remove fallen leaves and garden debris.

- The Dominion Post

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