Allergies growing far more common, says doctor

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:00 15/03/2014

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Those who suffer allergies could be in for some relief, with a new specialist clinic opening in Richmond.

GP James Chisnall and paediatrician Garth Smith have set up the clinic, which they say is the only specialist private clinic in the South Island.

Specialists at Lower Queen Street, due to open on April 1, will cover a range of allergies, from food to venom. The team all have training in diagnosing and treating allergies.

Dr Chisnall hoped it would fill what he deemed a big gap in allergy services in the South Island.

"Allergies are very common but there is virtually no special service here," he said.

The only other specialist private clinics were in Auckland and Wellington. Christchurch Hospital had an allergy and clinical immunology specialist.

While children could be treated by GPs and paediatricians, he said there were no other dedicated doctors in the region for adults.

"We decided to open the service so we will be testing and treating. Getting accurate diagnosis is really important."

He said allergies were becoming a lot more common.

"There's a preconception that people are over-reacting, but there is a general increase in severe allergies, right through from food to hayfever to asthma."

He said there was a risk of people self-diagnosing, or relying on alternative health remedies. "It's important people are diagnosed accurately so they know what to do about it."

The clinic would offer skin and blood tests. They would also gather patient history as a lot of allergies could not be tested.

They would offer desensitisation treatments, which were proven to be effective for some allergies.

For an allergy to stings, he said they would give someone venom in increasing amounts which was "gold standard care" for allergy treatments so the body became used to the venom.

He said they could also use this method for allergies to grass.

Clinic nurse Pam Manley said in most preschools there were one or two children with severe allergies and she had seen use of Epipens (used for anaphylactic shock for severe allergic reactions) double over the last 10 years.

Dr Chisnall said there were a multitude of factors that could be responsible for the increase in allergic reaction cases, from pollution, to a lack of exercise, to diet.

"Some people who think they have allergies don't, but there are also people who do who don't take it so seriously. Allergies versus intolerance is an area of great need, the treatments are two different things, intolerance is more common than allergies."

Specialists at Lower Queen St was a private clinic with no funding.

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Dr Chisnall said New Zealand had the lowest rate of desensitisation treatment in the Western world.

- The Nelson Mail

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