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A new tool has been launched this spring aimed at helping primary healthcare professionals develop a treatment plan for managing allergic rhinitis in patients with asthma.

The National Asthma Council Australia treatment planner is both a health professional and patient resource.

The Allergic Rhinitis Pad consists of tailored tear-off patient plans detailing treatment recommendations as well as technique instructions and tips.

Allergic rhinitis seasonal allergies – or hay fever symptoms – include an itchy, runny, and stuffy nose, watery eyes, sore throat, and headache which can be quite debilitating, National Asthma Council Australia Nurse Educator Marg Gordon said.

“People do not recognise the symptoms can be quite severe, it can interrupt your sleep and your general wellbeing and people put up with it.”

Three out of four people with asthma are affected by allergic rhinitis. The real message is that allergic rhinitis and asthma can be concurrent conditions,

Ms Gordon said.

“It’s important to remember that allergic rhinitis can make asthma worse and more difficult to control, and that people with asthma and allergic rhinitis have more visits to hospital and take more time off work or school than those with asthma alone.

“People who are allergic to grass pollens, such as ryegrass, can have asthma flare-ups caused by springtime thunderstorms, especially if their asthma is not well controlled, or they’re not taking regular preventer medication for their asthma.”

Many of those affected by the world’s largest epidemic thunderstorm asthma event in 2016 in Melbourne, had allergic rhinitis, Ms Gordon said.

Allergic rhinitis can actually trigger an asthma event, she said.

“Do not ignore the symptoms [of allergic rhinitis], do not just tolerate them. People tolerate the symptoms because they think it simply comes and goes, that it’s not too bad and your asthma is not too bad, but ignoring them increases the risk of an acute asthma event.

“If people are getting treatment for allergic rhinitis every day, if they are taking anti-histamines every day, they should go talk to their GP about both their conditions – allergic rhinitis and asthma.

“If they are using intranasal corticoid spray, saline washes or sprays or nasal antihistamine sprays to manage their symptoms they should consult with their health professional.”

Spring was the time to remind patients to review and update their treatment plans for allergic rhinitis and asthma, Ms Gordon advised.

“Patients need to have an active hay fever treatment plan and an active asthma treatment plan. If you know you suffer from hay fever during spring time, get to your doctor to talk about that.

“Health professionals can help patients keep their symptoms under control by reviewing their asthma and allergy management and making sure written asthma action plans are up to date.”