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Hay fever sufferers who cough and wheeze should visit their GP

While it’s shaping up to be an average grass pollen season in Melbourne this year due to La Nina, it doesn’t mean hay fever or asthma sufferers should be complacent.

Seven ‘high’ and five ‘extreme’ grass pollen days are predicted for Melbourne before the end of the year by Melbourne Pollen Count and Forecast, which forecasts the level of pollen in the air.

Austin Health Respiratory Physician and Allergist, Dr Joy Lee, says November is the worst month for grass pollen triggered asthma in Melbourne and coughing and wheezing are not symptoms of hay fever.

“Many people with hay fever think it’s a ‘normal’ part of their hay fever to cough and wheeze – in fact these symptoms are not attributable to hay fever and are more likely related to undiagnosed asthma,” she says.

It is possible to develop asthma as an adult and about 25 per cent of people who get hay fever will also get asthma.

Chest tightness, coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing are all common symptoms.

There are many different forms of asthma, including allergy-induced, where exposure to an allergen, such as grass pollen or house dust mites, can trigger an airway inflammatory response.

Joy says if you wheeze or cough during spring and have a history of hay fever, it’s highly likely you have asthma.

“Please see your GP or a specialised asthma and allergy clinic for advice and review,” she says.

And hay fever medication will not prevent an asthma attack from occurring.

“They should have reliever asthma medication and a spacer available, and they and their family should know the four steps of asthma first aid,” Joy says.

“An asthma action plan and an inhaled corticosteroid preventer are also recommended.”

If you suspect you have asthma, you can get a referral from your GP to visit Austin Health’s Allergy and Severe Asthma Clinic for testing and review.

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