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ONE in nine Canberrans suffer from asthma and one in four residents experience hay fever – the highest rate in Australia, according to ACT Health’s chief health officer Dr Paul Kelly.
He says people with asthma and hay fever and those who wheeze or sneeze in spring should see their GP to make sure their asthma and hay-fever management plan is in place.
“Asthma and hay fever are significant health problems in the ACT,” he says.
“With spring now here, many people with these conditions will experience worsening of their symptoms due to an increase in grass and other pollens being present in the air.
“I encourage people to seek advice from their GP to put a management plan in place. Pharmacies also offer hay fever treatments and can provide advice on how to use those treatments most effectively.”
Local GP and Capital Health Network board director Dr Martin Liedvogel says common symptoms of asthma include breathlessness, wheezing, tight feeling in the chest and a continuing cough.
“People with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs that react to triggers like pollen which can cause a ‘flare-up’ of symptoms,” he says.
“People who have asthma should also ensure they carry their blue reliever puffer with them at all times to manage flare-ups of symptoms when they occur.”
Dr Kelly says in extraordinary circumstances the combination of high pollen levels and a particular type of thunderstorm can severely affect people with hay fever who may have undiagnosed asthma. Known as thunderstorm asthma, it is a rare, but potentially life threatening scenario when certain environmental factors are triggered.
“A useful resource to help Canberrans monitor pollen levels is the free AirRater Smartphone app, which provides users with real-time information on air quality,” Dr Kelly said.
“The AirRater app is also helpful in keeping the community aware of the environmental risk factors that can contribute to asthma or hay fever symptoms.