Last updated on 01/04/2022

Grass pollen levels in Brisbane and Canberra smashed records during what some describe as the worst pollen season on record, potentially causing seasons of sneezing and wheezing for many with asthma and hay fever.  

Brisbane’s grass pollen season is still continuing, and reaching extreme levels, extending over summer and into autumn. 

Asthma Australia is advising anyone enduring asthma and hay fever symptoms, to re-evaluate their asthma management plans.  

CEO of Asthma Australia Michele Goldman said hay fever makes asthma worse which affects about 80% of people with asthma. 

“With this spike in grass pollen in the air, many of those with poorly controlled asthma are at risk of asthma flare-ups, which can lead to hospitalisation and sometimes it can be fatal,” Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman said. 

“Asthma flare-ups cause nearly 39,000 hospitalisations annually, and our message for people with asthma is to consult with their doctor to help manage their condition all year round, to reduce the risks from unexpected events like this. 

“Asthma Australia’s website has health information based on the evidence to help with pollen allergies and asthma,” she said. 

This current season, grass pollen levels in Brisbane are already much higher than the average of the last five seasons, caused by a combination of high rainfall and grass growth since September and months of high average temperatures. 

“It looks to be in the order of three to five times the total grass pollen seasonal load than we’ve seen in any previous years recorded anywhere in Australia ever before – the level at the end of January was 3.8 times the previous five-year average,” Professor Janet Davies, of the Queensland University of Technology School of Health, said. 

“It’s quite striking. It’s quite alarming that the rate of change in grass pollen levels is so severe. 

“In some ways, it’s explainable by the fact that we know that it’s a La Niña year, but our recent research suggests that rainfall is not the only driver for the levels of pollen in the air in Brisbane; temperature and particularly mean maximum monthly temperature is really important as well.” 

Canberra’s pollen readings were the highest in more than 10 years of research.  Tasmania was double average, Sydney recorded its highest levels for a few years with peaks in September, October and November, Adelaide’s readings have been up to twice the levels recorded in the previous three years, while Melbourne’s rates were average, possibly due to significant southerly winds from the La Niña. 

High C02 levels attributed to climate change have played a role in the pollen increase, just as it did in the recent high rainfall and flooding.  Prof. Davies noted that Brisbane’s pollen levels between 2015 and now have increased threefold compared to a monitoring period in the 1990s. 

High grass pollen can have wide-reaching and debilitating effects. Almost one-in-five people in Australia have hayfever. Among people with asthma, as many as 80% also have hayfever, and many experience symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, irritated eyes, a tight chest, difficulty breathing, and constant cough may be experiencing hay fever combined with asthma and should speak to their health care professional. 

Pollen season in temperate climate regions is traditionally from September to December, but ongoing rainfall and grass growth can extend the period of high pollen in the air through autumn.  Grass pollen levels are revealed to the public daily through the AusPollen websites, social media pages, and apps helping people with breathing problems and allergies to better plan any outings.  

Further information is available at: http://asthma.org.au/about-asthma/triggers/pollen/ 

To see an animated graphic of pollen levels, click here > https://www.facebook.com/auspollenbrisbane/

 

For more information: 

Teresa Vella | 0403 895 144 | e. tvella@asthma.org.au