Mercury (Hobart)

Experts itching to help halt hay fever


TWO Tassie researcher­s, including one who has suffered from hay fever for most of his life, have gathered cutting-edge data to help battle pollens and allergens this sneeze season.

Menzies Institute for Medical Research PhD candidate Lachlan Tegart started getting hay fever symptoms at 13. Soon enough, he wouldn’t leave the house without a pocketful of tissues.

“For me, it was the runny nose, sneezing, but also really

runny, itchy eyes,” Mr Tegart said. “It sucked, for most of the spring, whether I’d been exposed to pollen or not, I’d be sniffling, itchy and having an awful time.”

A love of plants and science has steered the 27year-old into a career researchin­g allergies.

“Hay fever is a combinatio­n of medical science and plant science, two things I was interested in,” Mr Tegart said.

“It’s a weird paradox that I have a vested interest in what I’m studying – I really want it to work out not only for my

career, but for my health.” Mr Tegart is part of the Which Pollen research group responsibl­e for the AirRater app, which allows people with hay fever, asthma or other lung conditions to manage symptoms and plan ahead.

Menzies Research fellow and AirRater project lead Dr Penelope Jones said the past year has seen “really exciting” developmen­ts, including app upgrades coming early next year to include more in-depth air-quality informatio­n.

She said Australia was among the worst hay fever

nations, and Tasmania had the second-highest rates in the country behind the ACT.

“We’ve got a really long pollen season,” Dr Jones said.

“Unfortunat­ely, pollen is kicking around up until April, then in July it starts again.

“Just over 20 per cent of Tasmanians have hay fever – that’s well over 100,000 Tasmanians,” she said.

Dr Jones said her team’s preliminar­y results from a survey of 80 Tasmanians suggested that about a quarter were also allergic to native plants such as golden wattle, bottle brush and blue gums. A Public Health spokesman said people with hay fever must get tested if symptoms occur and must stay home until they return a negative Covid test result.

“Individual­s should be tested for Covid-19 again if their symptoms change, worsen or reappear after a period of absence,” he said.

If someone returns a negative Covid test, their GP can provide a certificat­e to continue usual activities, including going to school or work.

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