Spirometry test for asthma

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Image: A lung function test for asthma

Spring has arrived and so has pollen season

September 10 2019

Spring has arrived and unfortunately allergy and asthma sufferers living in Melbourne can be exposed to significantly higher levels of grass pollen compared to the rest of the country. 

"It's the geographic nature of the state," Head of the Asthma and Allergy Service, Dr Joy Lee, says.

"There's a lot of ryegrass in the Great Dividing Range and in Gippsland which gets swept into Melbourne - compared to the Northern Territory, Queensland and central Australia, for example, you don't have as much rye grass pollen there."

November is the peak time for pollen season and Dr Lee says it's difficult to predict what the period will be like this year.

"Last year was a lower than average rye grass pollen season," she says.

"It's very dependent on weather conditions which can be difficult to predict in Melbourne.

"Asthmatics and seasonal allergy sufferers need to be prepared in September, October and November."

Intranasal steroids or antihistamines can help those suffering with allergic rhinitis.

If there's a known history of asthma, Dr Lee recommends individuals should visit their GPs or their specialist to ensure their asthma management plans are up to date, including inhaled asthma preventers, if prescribed. 

Treatments for severe allergic rhinitis may also include allergen immunotherapy which can reduce the severity of symptoms by up to 80 per cent.

This involves the gradual administration of allergen extracts over a period of time to change the way the immune system reacts to the allergen to eventually induce immune tolerance, like "switching it off." 

Dr Lee also recommends sufferers to be aware of thunderstorm asthma warnings and know asthma first aid.

"We know that thunderstorm asthma in Melbourne has been a reported phenomenon since the 1980s," she says.

"When there's a warning, try to avoid being outdoors."

Austin Health's Centre of Excellence in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine opened a specialised Thunderstorm Asthma clinic following the devastating epidemic thunderstorm asthma event in 2016 and conducts allergy and asthma testing including skin prick testing and spirometry.

The clinic is by referral only and is open every Thursday afternoon. 

For more information visit here.