Information updates

Do you have hay fever?

1 September 2020

With the changing of seasons from winter to spring coinciding with National Asthma Awareness Week (1-7 September 2020), this is a reminder that children and adults with hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and/or asthma should be using proven allergy and asthma treatments regularly and correctly. Airborne pollen increases from September to December in most regions, which can result in more hay fever and asthma symptoms.

Regular and correct treatment of hay fever or asthma is more important than ever in 2020, to avoid symptoms being mistaken for respiratory infections, including COVID-19, and to reduce sneezing and coughing which have the potential to spread infections.

Hay fever affects around one in five people in Australia and New Zealand. Symptoms include:

  • Runny, itchy, congested nose.
  • Irritable, itchy, watery and red eyes.
  • Sneezing and coughing.
  • Itchy ears, throat and palate.

Treating hay fever regularly and correctly is important for the following reasons:

  • To maintain good general health and prevent complications due to hay fever, including sinusitis.
  • To reduce adverse effects from hay fever, including tiredness due to poor sleep quality, impaired learning and reduced productivity.
  • To improve asthma control if you have asthma and hay fever. 
  • To reduce sneezing and coughing due to hay fever, which can spread respiratory infections, such as colds, influenza or COVID-19.

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ASCIA Immunotherapy and Venom Allergy Updates

12 August 2020

The updated 2020 version of the ASCIA Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT) treatment plan is now on the ASCIA website www.allergy.org.au/hp/papers/scit-treatment-plan

Another addition is a new quick-link to ASCIA insect and tick allergy resources on the ASCIA website homepage.

The updated plan and new quick-link complement the following new ASCIA resources for health professionals, that have been completed over the past year:

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COVID-19 and Face Masks

3 August 2020

From Monday 3 August 2020, if you live in Victoria you must wear a face covering whenever you leave your home, unless an excemption applies. A face covering needs to cover both your nose and mouth. It could be a face mask or shield. For details go to https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/face-coverings-covid-19 

On 10 July 2020 the Australian Government announced their updated advice regarding the wearing of face masks, in response to recent outbreaks of COVID-19 due to increased SARS-CoV-2 infections in Victoria.  

Wearing a face mask is now recommended by the Australian Government and Australian health experts in areas where there is community transmission of COVID-19, if physical distancing (staying at least 1.5 m away from others) is not possible. Situations where it may not be feasible to maintain physical distancing include shopping, workplaces and transport on buses, trains, trams, light rail, ferries, taxis, ubers or airline flights. 

Face masks are also recommended for people who are immunosuppressed and for people at increased risk of severe illness (if infected), due to their age or a chronic medical condition.

Wearing a face mask helps to protect against droplets when a person with COVID-19 coughs, speaks or sneezes, if you are less than 1.5 metres away. Wearing a mask will also help protect others if you are infected with the virus.

Fact sheets and FAQs 

On 16 July 2020 the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care released new resources to provide guidance to consumers on the use of face masks to protect against COVID-19. 

The new fact sheet and FAQs (frequently asked questions and asnswers) should assist people to decide whether to wear a mask in the community, and provide advice on how to use face masks safely.

Information on how to use face masks is also on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website:

www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks

It is important to note that the use a face mask is NOT a substitute for other actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Hand hygiene and avoidance of touching potentially contaminated surfaces.
  • Respiratory hygiene, including cough and sneeze etiquette.
  • Staying at home when unwell, even with mild respiratory symptoms.
  • Physical distancing (staying at least 1.5 m away from others) and following government restrictions.

To safely put on a disposable face mask:

  • Wash your hands before putting on the mask.
  • Make sure it covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face.
  • Do not touch the front of the mask while it is on, or when removing it (and if you do so accidentally, wash or clean your hands immediately).
  • Wash your hands after removing the mask.

The WHO has updated its information on transmission of SARS-CoV-2: implications for infection prevention precautions, which includes new scientific evidence:

https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/transmission-of-sars-cov-2-implications-for-infection-prevention-precautions

SBS has translated information about COVID-19 available on its website:

https://www.sbs.com.au/language/coronavirus

Information about COVID-19 and Immunodeficiency:

https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/covid-19

Information about COVID-19 and Allergy:

https://www.allergy.org.au/about-ascia/info-updates/allergy-and-covid-19

More information about COVID-19: 

https://www.allergy.org.au/members/covid-19

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COVID-19 and Allergy

3 August 2020

It is important that people with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma are using their treatments regularly and correctly, to maintain good health and prevent respiratory symptoms that can include coughing, sneezing and wheezing. 

With recent outbreaks of COVID-19 due to increased SARS-CoV-2 infections in some regions within Victoria and New South Wales, treating allergic rhinitis and asthma is particularly important for the following reasons:

  • To maintain good health by treating existing medical conditions.

  • To reduce coughing and sneezing, which can spread respiratory infections (e.g. colds, influenza or COVID-19).

  • To avoid allergy symptoms being mistaken for symptoms due to respiratory infections, including COVID-19.

Are people with allergic rhinitis and asthma at greater risk of getting COVID-19?

Most people with allergic rhinitis (hay fever), other allergies and asthma are not immunocompromised and are therefore not considered to be at greater risk of any respiratory infections, including COVID-19.

However, people with asthma (who often also have allergic rhinitis), should already be aware of the need to avoid infections and what to do if they become unwell or come in contact with any infectious disease. They are advised to follow the usual advice from their doctor. It is important that asthma and allergic rhinitis are well controlled and that inhalers or nasal sprays are used as directed by the treating doctor to reduce the impact of COVID-19 (and other infections), as much as possible.

Does wearing a face mask help?

In regions with current outbreaks, wearing of face masks are mandated (Victoria) or recommended (New South Wales), when outside the home. In other regions, people may choose to, or may be requested to wear face masks to protect themselves and others from potential infections in medical facilities, on transport, in workplaces, in stores or in public places. Information about the change in advice from the Australian government and current requirements regarding the wearing of face masks is available on the ASCIA website:

www.allergy.org.au/about-ascia/info-updates/covid-19-and-face-masks

It is important to note that the use a face mask is NOT a substitute for the following actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Hand hygiene and avoidance of touching potentially contaminated surfaces.
  • Respiratory hygiene, including cough and sneeze etiquette.
  • Staying at home when unwell, even with mild respiratory symptoms.
  • Physical/social distancing (staying >1.5 m away from others) and following government restrictions.

Can the immune system be “boosted” against infections such as COVID-19?

Despite various claims, there are currently NO recommended supplements or other agents which have been proven in conventional medical studies to boost immunity against infections such as COVID-19. Getting enough sleep, healthy eating, managing stress, regular exercise (whilst complying with government restrictions regarding physical distancing), and treating existing medical conditions to maintain good health will optimise immune system function. By combining these measures with the actions listed above, this may help reduce spread of infections, including COVID-19. 

More information about COVID-19: 

www.allergy.org.au/members/covid-19

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Another AIFA grant recipient receives NHMRC funding

23 July 2020

For the third time since the Allergy and Immunology Foundation of Australasia (AIFA) started funding research grants in 2015, we are proud to announce that an AIFA grant recipient has received National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding.

Dr Sidonia Eckle, who works at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, was awarded an AIFA research grant in 2019.

In 2020 Dr Eckle has been awarded $620,205 in an Emerging Leadership Award from the NHMRC in 2020. The NHMRC recognises excellence in the health and medical research sector and celebrates leadership and outstanding contributions to the sector through its biennial awards. 

NHMRC Investigator Grants 2020 | Mucosal-Associated Invariant T cells with Dr Sidonia Eckle 

Read more about the project here
Food Allergy and MAIT cells

This is the third time that a recipient of an AIFA grant has progressed to receive NHMRC recognition:

  • Dr Janet Davies received NHMRC funding in 2016 for her AusPollen project (AIFA grant awarded in 2015).
    Pollen Allergen Partnership

  • Dr Marcia Munoz received NHMRC funding in 2018 for her work on the autoimmune disease mevalonate kinase deficiency or MKD (AIFA grant awarded in 2017).
    Childhood Autoinflammatory Disease 

AIFA grants enable researchers to progress a new project in allergy and immunology research, and are a valuable step in future applications for larger grants.

We are very proud of the AIFA track record and we are glad that Dr Eckle could be one of the AIFA grant recipients to progress with NHMRC funding.

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ASCIA CSU Update

13 July 2020

Further to updates made in 2019, the ASCIA Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria (CSU) Position Paper and ASCIA CSU Treatment Guidelines for Australia have recently been updated, in response to difficulties in sourcing H2 antagonists.

The following statement has been included on page 16:

Furthermore, H2 antagonists are now difficult to source and the evidence base for efficacy in CSU is weak, so these should no longer be required as a step before allowing prescription of omalizumab.

Changes have also been made on page 19, and to the ASCIA CSU Treatment Guidelines for Australia.

The updated ASCIA CSU Position Paper and Treatment Guidelines are available on the ASCIA website www.allergy.org.au/hp/papers/chronic-spontaneous-urticaria-csu-guidelines

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ASCIA HAE Update

13 July 2020

Further to updates made in early 2020, the ASCIA Hereditary Angioedema (HAE) Position Paper has recently been updated in response to the New Zealand Minister of Health’s recent consent to the distribution of lanadelumab (published in the New Zealand Gazette on Tuesday 23 June 2020). 

The following statement has been included on page 12:

Lanadelumab is registered for prophylaxis of HAE attacks in New Zealand but is not yet funded. For those patients where it may be appropriate a NPPA application could be made to Pharmac. The recommended dose is 300mg SC every two weeks.

The updated ASCIA HAE Position Paper is available on the ASCIA website www.allergy.org.au/hp/papers/hereditary-angioedema

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