Hay fever sufferers and people with asthma; beware – peak pollen season is now until late November, according to the latest asthma alert issued by the National Asthma Council Australia.
"There is so much hype at the start of spring about pollen-triggered asthma and allergy that many people don't realise that the real danger period is actually late spring and sometimes even early summer," warned Professor John Wilson, National Asthma Council Australia chairman.
"These are the four to six weeks of the year when plant-based and pollen-related asthma is at its peak," Prof Wilson explained. "Then as summer progresses, pollen distribution tends to fall off and prevailing winds make pollen less of an issue."
For people with asthma, major thunderstorms at this time of the year can also compound the problem, triggering sudden and severe asthma attacks and an increase in hospital admissions.
"The combination of plenty of pollen in the atmosphere and heavily laden rain clouds, characteristic of thunderstorms, is hazardous," Prof Wilson said.
"When precipitation occurs, the pollen grains become wet and expand and then burst into smaller particles which can be breathed deep into the lungs, triggering asthma.
"Consequently, thunderstorms increase the allergen load caused by plant species such as rye grass, Bermuda grass and birch and a range of others, exacerbating asthma symptoms."
To minimise the impact of seasonal asthma and allergy, the National Asthma Council Australia encourages people with known allergies to continue to take their preventative medications to reduce hay fever, rhinitis and asthma, as well as their symptom reliever.
"People with asthma must have an up-to-date written asthma action plan, detailing what to do when symptoms worsen and it is important to avoid exposure to triggers," Prof Wilson stressed.
"For many, at this time of the year, it's better indoors than out."
(Source: National Asthma Council Australia, November 2008)