Department of Health

Staying safe this grass pollen season


Victorians with asthma and spring hay fever are being urged to check in with their local GP or pharmacist to prepare for the upcoming grass pollen season.

Grass pollen season, which typically runs from the start of October until the end of December, brings with it a seasonal increase in asthma and hay fever – and the chance of thunderstorm asthma.

When large numbers of people develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time, caused by high amounts of grass pollen and a certain type of thunderstorm, it is known as epidemic thunderstorm asthma.

“It’s important for anyone who has or has ever had asthma, or spring hay fever, or who might sneeze or wheeze during pollen season, to talk to their GP or pharmacist now about what they can do to protect themselves,” Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Angie Bone said.

“This can include updating your asthma action plan – which should be reviewed each year for adults or every six months for children.”

If you have asthma, take your asthma preventer regularly, always carry your reliever puffer with you, and know what to do if you develop an asthma attack – follow your asthma action plan or the four steps of asthma first aid. If you’re not sure if you have asthma, see your GP for an assessment.

People with spring hay fever should know what asthma symptoms are and learn the four steps of asthma first aid. Asthma reliever medication can be purchased from a pharmacy if required without a prescription.

Having good control of your asthma or hay fever during grass pollen season will help avoid any confusion with COVID-19 infection, as symptoms of asthma, hay fever and COVID-19 can be similar. People should test for COVID-19 if their symptoms are new, different than usual, have restarted after a period of absence or if they are unsure.

“We know our hospitals are currently experiencing increased demand due to COVID-19 and other illnesses, so it’s important people at risk take steps to protect themselves and those in their care ahead of time,” Dr Bone added.

Melbourne experienced the world’s largest epidemic thunderstorm asthma event on 21 November 2016, with thousands of people developing breathing difficulties in a very short period. It was the largest incident of its type ever recorded in the world.

Those at risk should check the epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast daily at the VicEmergency website or download the app and set up a watch zone. This forecast will be switched on at the start of October.

For more information on thunderstorm asthma, visit the Better Health Channel.

Reviewed 02 September 2022


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