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Pollen and hay fever
Up to four out of five people with asthma also have allergies like hay fever – either at certain times of the year or all year round.
Windborne plant pollen, such as those from grasses, weeds and trees, is a well-known trigger for seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. This pollen can blow into your nose and eyes, triggering asthma and allergies.
The main culprits are pollen from imported grasses, weeds and trees, which are wind pollinated. Australian native plants are usually not the culprit, although there are exceptions, such as cypress pine.
Allergies are not usually trigged by highly flowered plants as they produce less pollen (which is transported by bees) than wind pollinated plants.
What you can do
Pollen forecast and information
- If you live in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth or Canberra, check the pollen forecast (available during the main pollen season) in each of those cities
- If you live in New Zealand, check the pollen calendar here
- Check the guide to common allergic pollens here
- Managing conditions with the help of your doctor and taking prescribed medications as directed is important
- Allergy testing can help identify specific triggers, along with recording when and where symptoms are experienced
- In addition to prescription medicines, there are a number of over-the-counter products that may alleviate symptoms
In your garden
- Do not mow the grass yourself and stay inside when it is being mown. If mowing is unavoidable, wear a mask or consider taking a non-drowsy antihistamine if your doctor has suggested this.
- Consider planting a low allergen garden with plants pollinated by birds or insects as these are less likely to trigger allergic rhinitis or asthma
- If you are sensitive to particular weeds or trees that are outside your bedroom window, have them removed
In your home
- Keep windows closed
- Do not dry washing on an outside clothesline
- Indoor plants tend to not be the source of pollen, but may cause symptoms because of mould growth or fragrances
- Shower (and wash clothes that have been exposed to the elements) when you arrive home and rinse your eyes frequently with water
- If you still experience symptoms indoors, an air purifier may help
Getting out and about
- Use your prescribed medications before going outdoors when pollen cannot be avoided, and keep your asthma reliever with you
- Try to avoid going outdoors on days with high pollen counts, on windy days or after thunderstorms.
- Wear sunglasses (or normal glasses) to protect your eyes
- Keep windows closed when in your car, ensure your car cabin air filtration (and the filter is periodically changed) and/or use recirculating air conditioning in your car
- Avoid picnics in the park or country areas and try to plan your holidays out of the pollen season or holiday at the seaside
Remember, an itchy, runny or blocked nose due to allergies can make your asthma harder to control. If that sounds like you, make sure you talk to your doctor or pharmacist.