12 September 2018

Canberra’s high rates of asthma and hay fever sufferers urged to prepare for pollen season

| Glynis Quinlan
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One in four Canberrans suffers from hay fever and one in nine from asthma.

One in four Canberrans suffers from hay fever and one in nine from asthma.

With Canberra having the highest rate of asthma and hay fever sufferers in Australia, ACT Health is urging people to get prepared for the 2018 pollen season.

ACT Health says that asthma and hay fever are significant health problems in the ACT with one in nine Canberrans suffering from asthma and one in four experiencing hay fever.

They are urging Canberrans with these conditions to get a management plan in place, to make use of the free AirRater Smartphone app and to be aware of extraordinary circumstances such as those which can cause ‘thunderstorm asthma’ – a rare condition which led to the deaths of 10 people in Melbourne in 2016.

ACT Health’s Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly said people with asthma and hay fever and those who wheeze or sneeze in Spring should see their GP to make sure their asthma and hay fever management plan is in place.

“With Spring now here, many people with these conditions will experience worsening of their symptoms due to an increase in grass and other pollens being present in the air,” Dr Kelly said.

“I encourage people to seek advice from their GP to put a management plan in place. Pharmacies also offer hay fever treatments and can provide advice on how to use those treatments most effectively.”

Dr Martin Liedvogel, local GP and Capital Health Network Board Director, said common symptoms of asthma include breathlessness, wheezing, tight feeling in the chest and continuing cough.

“People with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs that react to triggers like pollen which can cause a ‘flare-up’ of symptoms,” Dr Liedvogel said.

“GPs can help people prepare a written asthma action plan to be able to respond to the flare-up of symptoms when they occur.

“People who have asthma should also ensure they carry their blue reliever puffer with them at all times to manage flare-ups of symptoms when they occur.”

Dr Kelly said in extraordinary circumstances the combination of high pollen levels and a particular type of thunderstorm can severely affect people with hay fever who may have undiagnosed asthma.

This can lead to ‘thunderstorm asthma’, which is a rare, but potentially life-threatening scenario which occurs when certain environmental factors are triggered.

Dr Paul Kelly. File photo.

“A useful resource to help Canberrans monitor pollen levels is the free AirRater Smartphone app which provides users with real-time information on air quality,” Dr Kelly said.

“The AirRater app is also helpful in keeping the community aware of the environmental risk factors that can contribute to asthma or hay fever symptoms.

“I encourage people in our community to download the AirRater app, not only as a preventable measure for themselves but also for loved ones who may be at risk during times of high pollen.”

For more information on managing asthma and hay fever, click here.

To download the free AirRater smartphone application go to: https://airrater.org/

Visit the daily Canberra Pollen Count and Forecast Service at: http://www.canberrapollen.com.au

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