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Allergy Today: From Mark’s Desk

Warm, Windy, Spring days…
Welcome to Allergy Today. Please share our free e-newsletter with others every time you receive it.
Allergy New Zealand has just experienced one of its busiest times of year – Spring!Screen Shot 2020-07-24 at 4

Busy, because a significant percentage of our members and the public experience the start of The Allergy Season differently from the rest of New Zealand. Pollen bursts from millions of plants and is scooped up by the Spring winds to travel throughout our temperate country.
Pine pollen is sometimes the first visual sign that Spring is upon us. However, it is not a common allergen – it is too large. A lot of pollen is invisible to the human eye and the smaller it is, the easier it becomes airborne, and then breathed in and absorbed into the soft tissue around the nose, eyes and mouth. About a third of our population – more than 1.5 million Kiwis – are allergic to pollen, with grass being the main culprit.

When the pollen breaks down in our soft tissue, its protein enters our bloodstream and an allergic reaction can occur. The immune system in people who suffer allergies, incorrectly identifies these proteins as a threat, and the affected areas of the face are flooded with histamines. This often causes itching, swelling and discolouration of the eyes, lips, lining of the nose and mouth.

Unfortunately, there is no cure apart from total avoidance, which is very difficult and impractical. So, we do our best to treat the symptoms instead. Nasal corticosteroid sprays are the mainstay of treatment, along with anti-histamines. These are best prescribed by your GP, or advised by your pharmacist, as it is important to know how to use these correctly.
If you suffer from severe symptoms, one option would be to consider immunotherapy. Find out more by reading our expert article on allergy immunotherapy in this issue.
There are some practical measures you can take to lower your exposure to allergens that set you off.

Firstly, get your allergens correctly diagnosed and follow the advice of your doctor or specialist. Secondly, if possible, stay indoors in the early morning. Flowers and pods are triggered by sunrise and, particularly if it is windy, the first few hours of the day can be pollen-rich. Keep your windows and doors closed during these conditions. Obviously, avoid parks and heavily-grassed areas that are flowering. Grass pollens are the most common cause of allergic rhinitis (hayfever) in New Zealand.
And lastly, spare a thought for hayfever sufferers at this time of year. They have not chosen this daily grind and it has a big impact on their quality of sleep and their ability to be at their best at home, school and work or in between.
So, perhaps offering a tissue instead of a quiet judgement might help lighten their load.

Primary Care Allergy Updates
As part of our ongoing education series for primary care, we have just hosted another successful event in Christchurch. More than 200 Health Care Professionals (HCPs) registered for the event which was livestreamed from Community House in Christchurch. A good number of HCPs also turned up to enjoy the event in person. We were thrilled with this ever-increasing attendance and shared interest in allergies by our key patient carers, advisers and influencers.

We are particularly grateful once again to our volunteer speakers at these events. The content and accessibility afforded by Drs Annaliesse Blincoe, Tom Townend and Anna Gilmour were appreciated by everyone. Thank you!
We also acknowledge the ongoing support of Nutricia for our allergy education series. Our reality is that without their generous support, these excellent educational events would just not be possible.
Our next Primary Care Allergy Update will be hosted in March/April 2021.

We are still receiving many requests for ‘free’ Epipens under the FundaPen™ initiative. Unfortunately, FundaPen™ is currently closed. FundaPen™ was a joint initiative made possible by a $300k donation from Pub Charity in 2019. Just fewer than 3000 individuals and families benefited from the programme.
FundaPen™ highlighted the scale of unmet need for life-saving adrenaline auto-injectors in our country, and demonstrated how inequality of access could be addressed using our existing excellent primary care networks.
However, Fundapen’s headline was that Allergy New Zealand wants to work with Government and Pharmac to address this ‘expensive’ gap in emergency level care for New Zealanders. FundaPen™ has proven that the distribution model exists and is willing, effective and efficient.

AGM Highlights
We recently celebrated an excellent year with Allergy New Zealand members at our AGM in September, which was livestreamed online for the first time.
A new Board, a new Constitution, a new membership initiative, and a new communications partner, created a fresh sense of purpose and momentum for the team.
  • A small professional Board led by Jilesh Mistry has developed and agreed a full set of ‘best practice’ governance and performance-based Board management criteria.
  • The Board recognised the quality of the Board Strategic Plan 2024 facilitated by ex-Board member Martin Dickson in 2018. They adopted it as is, and have used it to prioritise aligned projects over the last 12 months.
  • The introduction of ‘Free Membership’ has more than tripled Allergy New Zealand’s members since its inception last October.
  • Michele Hider and her team at Priority Communications (Christchurch) took over our day-to-day communication needs on a pro-bono basis, and to also advise on our larger projects. FundaPen™ was a recent project that benefited directly from their public relations expertise.
  • Please feel free to read more of our successes in our latest Annual Report here.
More …
Please enjoy the rest of this issue of Allergy Today.
From the expert articles and the unique recipes created
by Alana Scott, to our regular ecostore competition and our 'News Bites' featuring cat and environmental allergies, there is sure to be something for everyone.
And, please support those who support us – the products and services offered by our allergy-aware advertisers and sponsors. 
We look forward to dropping into your inbox again before Christmas with our bumper Summer issue of Allergy Today.
Thank you all for your continued interest, contributions and support.

Mark Dixon,
CEO Allergy NZ.

Allergy Today, 30 October 2020