Authors:
Marie Keatley

Marie Keatley
Adjunct Associate, Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science at University of Melbourne

Lynda Chambers

Lynda Chambers
Principal Research Scientist at the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research at Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Paul Beggs

Paul Beggs
Environmental Health Scientist at Macquarie University


Every Spring, the blanket of Australian alpine snow starts to melt, and the Mountain Pygmy Possum wakes up from its seven-month-long hibernation.

Naturally after so long under the snow, its first thought is to find food. But over the last few years, the snow’s been melting earlier, and an important food source – the Bogong moth – is arriving later on its yearly migration, leaving these endangered possums to go hungry.

In Australia, spring-time events on the land, as well as in freshwater and marine systems are now generally occurring earlier than they used to.

It’s now late spring, with summer just around the corner, and many people with hay fever suffer at this time of year in Australia. Although the cause of this suffering is invisible to us, it is actually all around us — plant pollen floating in the air.

The 500 million people in the world who suffer from allergies may be alarmed to learn that the major global outdoor allergen, grass pollen, is likely to significantly increase with climate change. In fact the latest research from the US shows that if there’s twice as much CO2 in the atmosphere there could be three times as much grass pollen allergen in the air.

Authors:
Ed Newbigin

Ed Newbigin
Associate Professor of Botany at University of Melbourne

Janet Davies

Janet Davies
Senior Research Fellow, Lung and Allergy Research Centre at The University of Queensland


Ah, spring, the sun shines again, the birds sing and - ach-hoo! Airborne grass pollens trigger bouts of hay fever and episodes of asthma in people with pollen allergies.

But there is a way we could mitigate the impact of the season - pollen counts. These work in the same way as summer UV alerts, by telling us when there’s enough of something around to cause health harms.

Authors:
Ed Newbigin

Ed Newbigin
Associate Professor of Botany at University of Melbourne

Simon Haberle

Simon Haberle
Professor at Australian National University


For many, spring is the most agreeable time of year. But for one in six people (around three million Australians), this balmiest of seasons is rendered utterly miserable by allergic rhinitis or hay fever. A chronic condition that reduces the quality of life of sufferers in multiple ways, hay fever is also associated with asthma.

For a small handful of Australians, including the two of us, spring also marks the start of the pollen counting season with its daily rituals of collecting slides, counting and identifying pollen, and tallying the results. We are the pollen counters for Melbourneand Canberra. Most other cities in Australia either don’t have pollen counters, or have sporadic ones.

Authors:
Janet Davies

Janet Davies
Senior Research Fellow, Lung and Allergy Research Centre at The University of Queensland

Connie Katelaris

Connie Katelaris
Professor of Immunology and Allergy, UWAS & Head of Unit at South Western Sydney Local Health District


Three million Australian adults – 15% of the population – struggle through spring and summer with watery eyes, running nose, itchy throat and the hallmark hay fever symptom, sneezing.

When people with hay fever are exposed to particular pollens, their body mistakenly thinks this is a threat and triggers an allergic reaction. Inflammatory cells quickly release mediators such as histamine and that’s when the symptoms kick in.

In some people with hay fever, pollen allergens can trigger allergic symptoms in the lower airways as well as the nose, making it difficult to breathe. Under certain climatic conditions, such as after thunderstorms, pollen allergy can trigger asthma attacks, even in those without a history of asthma.

© 2016 The Australian Pollen Allergen Partnership. A Plenum website.

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