Hay fever season arrives month early

The beginning of spring means hay fever season for 1.2 million New Zealanders.

The beginning of spring means hay fever season for 1.2 million New Zealanders.

This week marks the start of spring and the arrival of the allergy season but officials believe global warming has triggered hay fever and running noses a month ahead of schedule.

Allergy New Zealand chief executive Mark Dixon said the New Zealand allergy season actually started in early August thanks to global warming, warmer weather, prompting early pollination of plants.

"Pinus radiate had done its first bursts four weeks ago and that is one of our more voluminous species," Dixon said.

"The pollen explosion happens all over New Zealand and it can travel up to 4000 kms."

So pollen from beech forests in the South Island can get up the noses and in the eyes of North Island hay fever allergy sufferers, making noses run and eyes water.

"It's getting earlier, the summers are getting longer, pollen is hanging around for a lot longer," Dixon said.

"It's a great time for most of us, we're coming out of winter, but for a third of New Zealand it comes as a double-edged sword. Their noses start running, their eyes start watering, a little bit of awareness and tolerance is needed."

Dixon said 1.2 million New Zealanders suffered from pollen related allergies, such as hay fever.

Raglan artist Natasha Rao has suffered from a pollen allergy from July to September for four years.

This year is particularly bad for her as she is taking no medication because she is pregnant.

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"It just feels like there's a whole lot of acid ants running around in my mouth, and it's tickly in my nose," Rao said.

Her allergy started when she moved house, and at first she blamed her neighbour's privet hedges but it continued after they were felled.

"I always feel a bit embarrassed," Rao said.

"People think I am sick and I just say I have got really bad hay fever."

Manawatu based pollen scientist David Fountain, honorary research associate at the Institute of Molecular BioSciences at Massey University, said preliminary research showed pollen was releasing early in Europe but there was no New Zealand research around the claim.

"For southern Europe, particularly, there is preliminary data showing olive pollen is coming early by weeks.

"Climate change is going to probably produce these changes, with an earlier start in the season."

Another study, Fountain said, published in the Journal of Environmental Health had seen 16 international experts in asthma, hay fever and pollen, acknowledge global warming was causing climate change but only half of them thought it was having an impact on pollen levels.

 - Stuff

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