Hay fever tops list for chronic respiratory conditions

About 3.1 million Australians, or 15% of the population, suffer from hay fever, making it one of the most common chronic respiratory conditions in Australia, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Allergic rhinitis ('hay fever') in Australia, shows that hay fever is most commonly reported by people aged 25–44 years, and least commonly reported by people in the 0–14 and 65–74 age groups.

Hay fever is also slightly more common in women than men.

‘Typical hay fever symptoms are a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes, which are experienced due to seasonal exposure to a range of triggers,’ said AIHW spokesperson Lisa McGlynn.

‘Common triggers for hay fever are house dust, animal fur, pollen, fungal spores, air pollutants, and occupational sources.’

The ACT and Western Australia have the highest rates of hay fever, while Queensland and New South Wales have the lowest.

‘Reasons for the differences between states are not clear, but may reflect regional differences in allergen exposure,’ Ms McGlynn said.

The main medicines used to treat hay fever are intranasal corticosteroids (nasal sprays) and oral antihistamines.

Comprehensive data is not available on the use of these 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. The reasons for this increase are unclear.

While mild hay fever is often not troublesome, moderate or severe hay fever can greatly interfere with the sufferer’s daily activities, considerably reducing their quality of life and quality of sleep.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 17 November 2011

Further information: Ms Lisa McGlynn, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1168 mob. 0408 204 164

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032