Asthma management in spring

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Pollen allergies can trigger asthma symptoms and can therefore be more common in spring, when the pollen count is higher.

According to Asthma Australia, around 2.3 million Australians have asthma and 80 per cent of people with asthma also experience hay fever (allergic rhinitis), yet effective treatment and management of your hay fever can help you to keep your asthma under control.

Know the symptoms, take the preventative steps and have a plan in place to handle your asthma this spring.

Symptoms

To recognise that you may be at risk of pollen-induced asthma, you need to first be aware of the symptoms of both hay fever and asthma.

Hay fever

According to the National Asthma Council Australia, common symptoms of hay fever include:

 • Itchy, runny or blocked nose
 • Itchy or watery eyes
 • Sneezing
 • Frequent sore throats
 • Headaches, including facial pain or pressure
 • Frequent middle ear infections

Asthma

Symptoms often vary from person-to-person, but most commonly include:

 • Difficulty breathing
 • Wheezing
 • Feeling tight in the chest
 • Continuous coughing

Thunderstorm asthma

Thunderstorm asthma can affect people who experience asthma and/or hay fever, as well as those who don’t. According to the Better Health Channel, thunderstorm asthma is thought to be triggered by a unique combination of high pollen levels and a certain type of thunderstorm, causing a large number of people to develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time.

When grass pollen grains get swept up in the wind and carried for long distances; some can burst open and release tiny particles that are concentrated in the wind gusts that come just before a thunderstorm. These particles are small enough to be breathed deep into the lungs and can trigger asthma symptoms, making it difficult to breathe.

Thunderstorm asthma events are uncommon and don’t occur every year, however it’s still important to be aware of the risks, symptoms and treatment.

Read more about thunderstorm asthma here.

Four steps of asthma first aid

Knowing the four steps of asthma first aid will assist you in protecting yourself and others during an asthma attack.

1. Sit the person upright.
2. Give four puffs of blue or grey reliever puffer. Make sure you shake the puffer, put one puff into a spacer and get the person to take four breaths from the spacer. Repeat this until the person has taken four puffs. If you don’t have a spacer simply give the person four puffs of their reliever directly by mouth.
3. Wait four minutes. If there is no improvement, give four more separate puffs as in step 2. Remember: shake, one puff, four breaths.
4. If there is still no improvement, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. Tell the operator that someone is having an asthma emergency. Keep giving the person four separate puffs of reliever medication, taking four breaths for each puff, every four minutes until the ambulance arrives.

Prevention

Reduce your exposure to pollen

The Better Health Channel explains that a direct way to manage pollen allergies is to reduce your exposure to pollens. Check your local pollen count to help you plan to avoid exposure. Those living in Melbourne and surrounding areas can check the pollen count here.

To reduce your exposure to pollen, you can:

 • Stay indoors in the morning, if possible, as grass pollens mainly circulate in the morning.
 • Avoid mowing the grass, or wear a mask when you mow.
 • Keep windows closed in your home and car.
 • Avoid picnics in grassy areas during pollen season.
 • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Have an action plan in place:

An asthma action plan will help you to manage your asthma on a day-to-day basis, as well as to make sure you’re prepared in an emergency.

An asthma action plan includes:

 • How to care for your day-to-day asthma, including a list of your regular medications and when to take them.
 • Key points that tell you when your asthma is getting worse or an attack is developing, and the steps you should take to manage it.
 • Symptoms that are serious enough to need urgent medical help (with emergency information on what to do if you have an asthma flare-up).

Speak to your doctor about developing an asthma action plan.

Where to get help

• In an emergency, always call triple zero (000) or visit the Emergency department of your nearest hospital
• Your doctor
• NURSE-ON-CALL: 1300 60 60 24 (24 hours, 7 days)
• National Home Doctor Service for after-hours home doctor visits (bulked billed): 13 SICK (13 7425)
• Asthma Foundation of Victoria: 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462)
• National Asthma Council of Australia: 1800 032 495
• Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia: 1300 728 000