Will 2023 be a bad year for allergies?

by | Allergy, Seasonal Health, Spring Health

Dr Edwin Lampugnani

Plant Cell Biologist

Spring has sprung which can only mean one thing: hay fever and allergic asthma season is upon us. But what is the forecast for allergy season 2023? The experts from Melbourne Pollen, the team behind Australia’s most accurate and trusted pollen count app, say it’s good news, with this season potentially less intense than recent years. “The forecast for the Victorian 2023 season is a return to a more normal grass pollen season,” explains Melbourne Pollen’s Dr Edwin Lampugnani. “This follows a series of wetter La Niña seasons over the past 3 years.”

What causes seasonal allergies?

Allergies that flare up in warmer weather (spring and early summer) are primarily triggered by grass pollen. Many introduced pasture grasses are the worst offenders when it comes to triggers for hay fever. There are hundreds of types of grasses, however, perennial ryegrass is one of the most dominant grass types in Victoria and has become naturalised in agricultural areas, along roadsides and has invaded a wide variety of natural habitats. Pollen from grasses are spread by the wind and as the weather warms up and the wind turns more westerly, grass pollen from Victoria’s pasture lands can be brought into the city, aggravating respiratory allergies and asthma for thousands of Victorians.

What makes some years worse for grass pollen than others?

By following weather patterns, scientists can forecast the severity and length of allergy season. We all know how weather impacts the growth of plants, and unfortunately for hay fever sufferers, pasture grasses are no different. When the weather is conducive to pasture grass thriving, pollen counts go up, and the threat of seasonal allergies, allergic asthma and on some rare occasions, a thunderstorm asthma event, increases.

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What is the pollen forecast for 2023?

Generally, the pollen count is higher in La Niña years. Over the past three years, La Niña meant significantly more rain, which created perfect conditions for pasture grass to thrive and pollen counts to soar. As we prepare for an expected shift to an El Niño weather system, the 2023 allergy season is expected to be less intense than 2020, 2021 and 2022. “2023 is forecast to see a warmer and drier spring, favouring both an earlier start of the season compared to last season, as well as an earlier end,” says Dr Lampugnani. That’s good news if you’ve been dreading the return of spring blooms.

How can I prepare for allergy season?

If you suffer from respiratory allergies and/or allergic asthma, preparation is everything. Professor Fay Johnston, GP and head of Menzies Environmental Health Research emphasises the link between allergic asthma and hay fever, urging hay fever sufferers who notice symptoms like occasional wheezing, breathlessness, or coughing, to see their GP to discuss the possibility of asthma. “If anyone is having trouble breathing, immediately call 000 for an ambulance,” says Professor Johnston.

Having an asthma action plan is another non-negotiable for those affected. Monitoring your condition, staying up-to-date with medication and ensuring friends and familiar are confident with the four steps of asthma first aid should all be part of your allergy season prep.

And no matter where you sit on the allergy spectrum, paying attention to the daily pollen count, and planning your movements accordingly will help keep you well. “We encourage individuals to harness tools like the Melbourne Pollen App, enabling access to pollen forecasts for today and the week ahead,” says Dr Dr Lampugnani. “This equips them to make informed decisions and effectively manage respiratory conditions caused by pollen allergies.”

Where to Get Pollen Count and Forecast Information

Users of the Melbourne Pollen App, available on both the Apple and Google Play Store, can receive notifications about high grass pollen forecast days and thunderstorm asthma warnings issued by the Victorian Department of Health. For more advice on allergy season, visit the Melbourne Pollen website.
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