Illawarra allergy sufferers are feeling the pain thanks to one of the worst pollen seasons in years according to Wollongong GP Suzan Bekir.
Dr Bekir, who runs Collective.care – formerly the Australian Allergy Centre – said climate change and pollution were combining to create longer, and stronger, allergy seasons.
‘’The World Allergy Organisation predicted this was going to be the worst pollen season in years and we are now seeing the effects of that here,’’ she said.
‘’Not only is there epidemic proportions of pollen in the air, the prevalence of allergic rhinitis (hayfever) and sinusitis has increased dramatically to epidemic proportions.
While frequent sneezing, a runny nose and itchy or watery eyes were recognised as common allergy symptoms, Dr Bekir said there were far more serious complications.
‘’Chronic symptoms include blocked nose, mouth breathing, headaches, sleep-disordered breathing and fatigue which can have a huge effect on quality of life and overall health,’’ she said.
‘’Allergies that go untreated or undiagnosed can lead to other conditions – such as chronic sinusitis.’’
Dr Bekir said new treatment options were available for allergy sufferers – from phototherapy to immunotherapy or desensitisation.
The GP established Collective.care – which also has two Sydney centres – to offer a more affordable and accessible model of care for allergy patients.
‘’For years patients have been complaining about the long waiting times, and high costs, associated with seeing specialists,’’ Dr Bekir said.
‘’So we decided to create a bulk-billing centre where they could get timely access to GPs who have advanced training in a range of specialist skill areas including allergy conditions.
‘’They can bulk bill consultations as well as onsite allergy tests and treatments.’’
Dr Bekir said the team offered mutli-disciplinary care – allowing patients to see a range of different specialist GPs. She runs the centres in conjunction with husband Tobias Pincock, an ear, nose and throat surgeon.
‘’Patients can be checked by a team of health professionals under one roof.’’
GPs could test for airborne allergies such as pollen, as well as food allergies (nuts, wheat and so on) and contact allergies (chemicals, fragrance, dyes).
The prevalence of allergic rhinitis (hayfever) and sinusitis has increased dramatically.