Extreme pollen warnings issued

Kate Withers

Hayfever and allergy sufferers have been placed on high alert this week with widespread extreme pollen warnings issued across the state.

The Victorian Health Department issued an extreme pollen count for Churchill yesterday, which recorded a reading of 149.

Pollen levels are measured on how much grass pollen is in the are, with low levels between 1-9, moderate between 10-49, high between 50-59 and extreme 100 and above.

The high pollen count, and storms forecast for the Valley and other parts of Victoria, also prompted authorities to issue warnings about thunderstorm asthma risk.

Thunderstorm asthma is caused by large amounts of whole pollen grains being pulled up into the clouds of an evolving thunderstorm.

Small pollen allergen particles are released into the air in the cold dry outflows from the storm and arrive at ground level where they are breathed into people’s lungs.

Acting RACGP President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda said asthma sufferers should be alert, but not alarmed, and ensure they are carrying medication and have an up-to-date asthma management plan.

“October to December is thunderstorm asthma season and right now parts of the country are at high risk,” he said.

“Those at increased risk of thunderstorm asthma are thought to be people with a history of asthma, undiagnosed asthma, seasonal allergic rhinitis as well as people with a rye grass or pollen allergy.”

“People with allergic rhinitis who have never experienced asthma before can experience bronchospasm during certain thunderstorms.

“So please take this seriously because thunderstorm asthma can strike without warning.

The Acting RACGP president said that patients should consult their GP and have a plan in place.

“Please make sure you are prepared because this condition can be deadly,” he said.

“There is no need to panic but it is vital to consult with your GP on how to best manage your condition if you are a person at increased risk of thunderstorm asthma.

“Talk to your GP about potentially developing an asthma action plan. That includes people with allergic rhinitis or a rye grass or pollen allergy who have not been diagnosed with asthma previously.”