An Australian doctor has warned hay fever and asthma sufferers in Victoria to prepare for the worst.
University of Melbourne botanist Ed Newbigin said healthy grass growth from good rainfall would lead to elevated pollen levels in the coming weeks.
“Now is a good time for people with hay fever or asthma to talk to their healthcare professional and make sure they are taking the right medications to reduce the chance of having a poor pollen season,” Dr Newbigin said in a statement.
Dr Newbigin, co-ordinator of the Melbourne Pollen Count, said the daily pollen counts at the Parkville campus in Melbourne had picked up a little bit of grass pollen, some eucalypt pollen and lots of ash and cypress pollen over September.
He said while it was hard to know which trees people were allergic to, an ongoing “citizen science” project could help identify the culprit.
“People experiencing allergy symptoms now are most likely allergic to pollen from one of the trees that’s flowering,” Dr Newbigin said.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), almost one in five Australians (more than 4.6 million people) had allergic rhinitis in 2017-18, with the ACT having the highest rate (29 per cent).
However, this season, Victoria is expected to have the highest levels of pollen.
The main medicines used to combat hay fever are intranasal corticosteroids (nasal sprays) and oral antihistamines.
AIHW reported that data from pharmacy suppliers suggested spending by pharmacies on these medicines doubled between 2001 and 2010, going from $ 107.8 million to $ 226.8 million per year.
Professor Simon Haberle, from the Australian National University, said short-term pollen data from around Australia suggested there was a lengthening of the pollen season.
“If you had a severe drought in a particular location, then you’d expect less pollen and less vegetation growth,” he said.
“But in Australia we go from one extreme to the other, so even if we’re moving into a drier climate generally, there will still be years that are particularly wet that we need to look out for.”
Victoria, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and New South Wales residents can use the Pollen Forecast Network websites or download the state-specific apps for pollen forecasts.