Asthma Australia in partnership with the University of Adelaide and the AusPollen Aerobiology Collaboration Network led by Queensland University of Technology will kick off Adelaide’s Pollen Count for this season, starting Tuesday, October 1st until December 31st, 2019.
With 13% of South Australians affected by asthma and even more from hay fever, the pollen count is always a popular resource used by Adelaideans.
“There’s an abundance of pollen in and around Adelaide, so knowing when to avoid exposure can make a big difference to your health,” says CEO of Asthma Australia Michele Goldman.
The pollen count will be uploaded by 11:30 am each day onto the Asthma Australia website at www.asthma.org.au/adelaide-pollen-count or by visiting the asthma triggers page and clicking on pollen. It is not a forecast service but shows pollen count over the past 24 hrs.
It’s the first-time scientists at the University of Adelaide have undertaken the pollen monitoring, headed up by the School of Biological Sciences.
“We’ve been preparing over the past few months to use the same methods as other states for pollen monitoring so we can deliver data from Tuesday. This data will provide important information that has the ability to potentially affect the health of many people,” says Michelle Waycott, Chief Botanist for The State Herbarium of South Australian and Professor of Plant Systematics.
Professor Waycott said pollen is captured using an instrument called a Burkard pollen trap. “The team undertake manual analysis of pollen grains under a microscope to determine concentrations of pollens in the air. So, it’s not just a matter of plugging something into a computer, it takes expertise and time,” she said.
For this season the Adelaide Pollen Monitoring will focus on grass pollen, but levels of other pollen may also be reported as an indicator.
Professor Janet Davies the lead AusPollen investigator from QUT says “we focus on grass pollen because grass is the most clinically important outdoor allergen trigger for allergic asthma and hay fever.” The concentration of grass pollen in the air will be indicated by low, medium, high and extreme scores.
People whose asthma and hay fever are affected by pollen can respond using the following guide but should always aim to avoid exposure on high and extreme pollen days:
Low: Continue as planned with normal asthma and hay fever preventative action.
Medium: Be cautious, avoid exposure where possible; always keep asthma reliever medication with you; ensure you are treating hay fever symptoms.
High: Be on alert: avoid exposure wherever possible and outdoor exercise; consider changing plans if they involve being outdoors; always keep asthma reliever medication with you; ensure you are treating hay fever symptoms. Close windows in the car and doors and windows at home to reduce pollen exposure.
Extreme: Be vigilant: avoid exposure by staying indoors with windows and doors closed; avoid outdoor exercise; ensure you’re treating hay fever symptoms; turn air conditioning to recycle air, if available; always keep asthma reliever medication with you; follow your asthma action plan; call triple zero in case of an emergency.
If you experience symptoms of cough, tight chest or wheeze during the grass pollen season you should put your asthma management plan into action and seek medical help if needed.
Asthma Australia highlights that people with asthma are more likely to experience hay fever and CEO Michele Goldman said unmanaged asthma and hay fever can cause unnecessary grief.
“More frequent asthma flare-ups, sinus infections and other symptoms like headaches and fatigue. It’s hard to manage work and family life when you constantly have symptoms or secondary infections.”
She said people who actively treat symptoms with preventative action, daily and as needed, in addition to using tools like the pollen count had a better handle on their health through pollen season.
Schools and workplaces are further encouraged to be supportive of people who experience asthma during pollen season, particularly on high and extreme pollen days.
“Be mindful that pollen can be a serious health risk to a large cohort of children and adults with asthma,” Ms. Goldman said.
Her advice is to be aware who is affected by asthma in your workplace or school environment and make suitable arrangements on high and extreme pollen days to ensure these people have a safe place to avoid exposure and have their asthma medication readily available.
South Australians have the highest number of people affected by asthma (13%) than any other state or territory. South Australian children with asthma are more likely to be hospitalised than anywhere else in the country.
Asthma Australia’s free clinically proven asthma services are available to support people in South Australia with asthma. Any expansion of services is contingent on funding by SA Health.