ACT News

Canberra pollen count app reveals which profession has worst hay fever

Canberra's pollen counting season is over and the results are in: hay fever hits real estate agents and 18 to 25-year-olds the hardest.

About 4000 out of 11000 people who downloaded the Canberra Pollen forecast app answered survey questions detailing their profession, age and gender as well as reporting their hay fever symptoms between October 1 until the count ended on December 31.

People working in real estate, hospitality, community services, advertising and architecture reported the most severe ...
People working in real estate, hospitality, community services, advertising and architecture reported the most severe hay fever symptoms. 

People working in real estate, hospitality, community services, advertising and architecture reported the most severe symptoms throughout the season (3.4 on average on a scale of one to five).

While those working in mining, engineering, retail, trades and management reported the lowest symptoms (2.04 on average), the data revealed.

Australian National University professor and the pollen count's project leader Simon Haberle believes it may be down to where the hay fever sufferers are likely to work.

Workers in real estate, hospitality, community services, advertising and architecture are more likely to travel to a variety of work sites rather than spend lots of time in the same office, which may expose them to a greater variety of pollen types during the season, he said.

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 The workers who suffered less could have been based on construction or mining sites with sparse vegetation or in office environments.

Average daily hay fever symptom score by occupation.

Professor Haberle said the data provided a richer understanding of how pollen affects different parts of the community and could be used by employers.

"For anybody working in these areas it's good to know that they're not alone, it may not just be their own personal susceptibility, but perhaps the nature of the work they do increases their susceptibility to hay fever," he said.

"They could help to influence their companies to provide assistance in reducing hay fever risk and that must be a benefit to any employer because it reduces the days people are away from work and their effectiveness at work throughout the year."

Women reported only slightly more severe symptoms on average than men (an average of 2.86 out of five compared to 2.71) and a similar percentage of both genders said they had used some form of medical intervention to treat their hay fever (65 per cent of women and 63 per cent of men).

Canberrans reported fewer hay fever symptoms the older they were,  with 18 to 25-year-olds reporting the worst symptoms (an average of 3.09 out of five).

But younger sufferers were less likely to use hay fever treatments – just 57 per cent of 18 to 25-year-olds and 60 per cent of 26 to 30 year olds.

Average daily hayfever symptom score by gender and age with the percentage of participants using some form of medical intervention to treat their symptoms during the season.

Professor Haberle said the data suggested that younger people were more likely to "push through" symptoms while older sufferers may take medication to avoid taking time off work.

"There is a survey that suggests different age groups are affected in different ways and that younger people tend to be more susceptible, but the understanding of why that may be is less certain so we're keen to use the research data we have to help understand the different drivers for people," he said.

Professor Haberle's predictions of a "Godzilla" hay fever season in October were initially correct in the early part of the season, the data revealed, but unusually high rainfall in early November caused lower than expected grass pollen counts.

In the severe season of 2014 just under 2500 grass pollen grains were counted during October to December, but over the same period in 2015,  2150 grains were counted,  making it a "moderate" season with an average of just over 23 grass pollen grains per day.

Only nine days had "high" or "severe" pollen levels compared to 30 in 2014's record-breaking hay fever season.