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This is a snapshot of the latest statistics on allergic rhinitis in Australia. More detailed information can be found in the report Allergic rhinitis ('hay fever') in Australia.

For personal medical advice, see your doctor.

Information in this snapshot was last updated Feb 2012.

Allergic rhinitis is triggered by an allergic reaction. The symptoms may include a runny or blocked nose and/or sneezing and watery eyes. Allergic rhinitis can occur seasonally or throughout the year. Hay fever is a term commonly used to refer to allergic rhinitis when it occurs seasonally. Common triggers include house dust, animal fur, pollens, fungal spores, air pollutants and occupational triggers such as latex, breads and cereals or small animals.

Allergic rhinitis by the numbers

graphic for Allergic rhinitis - over 1 in 7 have it GIF

Over 1 in 7

Australians suffered from allergic rhinitis in 2007–08.

That's over 3 million people.

graphic for  Allergic rhinitis prevalence by age group GIF

25–44 years

is the age group where allergic rhinitis was the most prevalent.

Unlike many health conditions, allergic rhinitis is most common in the middle years of life (15–54 years), rather than in children or older Australians.

graphic for  Allergic rhinitis prevalence by state GIF


had the highest rate of allergic rhinitis in Australia (2.1 in 10 people) in 2007–08.

The second highest rate was in WA (2.0 in 10 people). The lowest rates were in NSW (1.3 in 10 people) and Qld (1.1 in 10 people).

Source: AIHW analysis of of ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08

Treatment of allergic rhinitis

There are a range of treatments available for allergic rhinitis, many of which do not require a presciption from a doctor. The main medicines used are intranasal corticosteroids (nasal sprays) and oral antihistamines. For persistent allergic rhinitis and for moderate/severe intermittent allergic rhinitis, guidelines recommend the use of nasal sprays as the first-line therapy. For mild intermittent hay fever, the use of antihistamines is recommended.

Comprehensive data is not available on the use of allergic rhinitis medicines. Data from pharmacy suppliers, however, suggests that spending by pharmacies on these medicines doubled between 2001 and 2010, going from $107.8 million to $226.8 million per year. While not all of these medicines would have been used for allergic rhinitis, treatment of this condition is likely to have accounted for a large proportion of the increase.

Seasonality of pharmacy supply pattern

Each year between 2006 and 2010, the wholesale supplies of oral antihistamines started to increase around July and peaked around October–November.

Further reading

AIHW 2011. Allergic rhinitis ('hay fever') in Australia

Source tables

Table 1: Allergic rhinitis sufferers per 10 population by State or Territory, Australia, 2007–08
State Number
ACT 2.1
WA 2.0
Vic 1.8
SA 1.7
Tas 1.6
NSW 1.3
Qld 1.1
Aust 1.5

Source: AIHW analysis of of ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08

Table 2: Allergic rhinitis sufferers per 10 population by age and sex, 2007–08
Age group Males Females
0–24 1.083 1.204
25–44 1.968 2.027
45–64 1.36 1.82
65+ 1.105 1.228

Source: AIHW analysis of of ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08