Canberra's hay fever hot spots revealed
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Canberra's hay fever hot spots revealed

If you are an allergy sufferer who felt some Canberra suburbs made your eyes water more than others, you might be on to something.

The pollen data for the 2014 hay fever season is in and Canberra's hay fever hot spots have been revealed.

Hotspots for hay fever suffering in Canberra and the region for 2014. Red suburbs were those where respondents reported the highest levels of hay fever suffering throughout the season. Blue suburbs reported low levels of hay fever suffering and yellow suburbs had average symptoms. <a href="http://www.canberratimes.com.au/cqstatic/12l0hg/Canberra_PollenSurveyDivision_STD.jpg">Full size map here</a>

Hotspots for hay fever suffering in Canberra and the region for 2014. Red suburbs were those where respondents reported the highest levels of hay fever suffering throughout the season. Blue suburbs reported low levels of hay fever suffering and yellow suburbs had average symptoms. Full size map here Credit:Canberra Pollen Count and Forecast

In north Canberra, hay fever sufferers had a hard time in Casey, Franklin and Reid, while in south Canberra, Gilmore, Isabella Plains and Calwell were the hardest hit. Across the border, Karabah and Jerrabomberra were the sneeziest.

But researchers behind the Canberra Pollen Count project, which called for sufferers to rank their symptoms each day via a mobile app displaying the daily pollen count, are still scratching their heads as to why symptoms were worse in some places than others.

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"I initially thought logically it would be suburbs close to grasslands but in fact that doesn't seem to be consistent," Australian National University Professor Simon Haberle said.

"Even though the [hotspot] suburbs do tend to be adjacent to open areas, there are other suburbs that are similar that don't seem to be suffering as much.

"Then I thought maybe there was a socioeconomic factor, maybe they were areas with lower incomes or different age structures but again we couldn't find any strong correlation."

The hotspots were determined from the 2014 survey, where 1250 respondents used the pollen count app to rank their daily hay fever symptoms from 'none' to 'severe' on a scale of one to five.

Researchers used data from the 6250 responses to the app between October 1 and December 31 to create a map based on the average of how people were feeling each day.

"The hotspots were where people were feeling on average much more severe symptoms and the below average or blue areas were where they felt symptoms that were much milder," Professor Haberle said.

Newcomers to Canberra who have moved into newer suburbs may be one factor causing the hot spots, Professor Haberle believes.

"Areas like Jerrabomberra, Casey or Franklin were areas where there was a relatively new populations, they're areas where people might have moved interstate into Canberra and when that happens people can develop … late onset hay fever," he said.

"But again, there's other [hotspot] suburbs like Reid… and that's probably dominated by people who have lived in Canberra for a long time … it's a complex thing."

Professor Haberle said he expects proof of the hotspots to be established in the future as the pollen count continues beyond its first year.

"It's preliminary but it's quite intriguing so that's why we want to continue the work and see if we can refine the data and really determine whether these places have something environmental or socioeconomic that's determining why they are hotspots," he said.

Professor Haberle said researchers may expand and refine the survey to ask more questions in future years.

Although the cause of the hotspots remains a mystery, the data revealed a strong correlation between high pollen count days and more severe hay fever symptoms in one of Canberra's worst hay fever seasons.

Grass pollen remained the chief offender, but other pollens also affected sufferers.

Professor Haberle said researchers hope to attract more funding to begin the pollen count earlier from the beginning of September until February to capture a late spike in grass pollen.

Clare Colley is Head of Audience Engagement at The Australian Financial Review. She was previously an online editor, arts editor and journalist at The Canberra Times.

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