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With harvest underway and thunderstorm season upon us, Wimmera Health Care Group is urging people with asthma and hay fever to be prepared.

The health service’s respiratory nurse Heather Macdonald said the link between hay fever, asthma and thunderstorms had been solidified in recent years.

Ms Macdonald said preparedness was important.

"With the combination of thunderstorms and harvest stirring up grasses, dust and pollen, we urge people to be prepared and make sure their medication is in date and close by," Ms Macdonald said.

"Reliever Inhalers (such as Ventolin and Asmol) can continue to ‘squirt’ sometime after there is no longer medication in them so it is important to have a new one on standby. It is also important to check that your reliever inhaler is still in date. This can be done by removing the metal canister from the device."

Ms Macdonald said the Wimmera region has one of the highest rates of asthma in Australia and was also a problem area for pollen and dust allergies.

"People who haven’t experienced asthma for years, or ever before, can develop asthma," she said.

She said a new an app that shows pollen counts, Melbourne Pollen Count app, can help people be aware of days where asthma dangers are increased.

"The closest station for the app is Hamilton, so while it isn’t right here, it still gives a good indication of pollen count which can help people be prepared," Ms Macdonald said.

"Anyone who has a past history of asthma or hayfever, can experience an asthma flare if the weather and pollen conditions are right, even if they have been symptom free for many years."

Ms Macdonald said if people did believe they were experiencing asthma symptoms they should;

 Seek medical attention immediately if they do not have asthma medication.

 Use their reliever inhaler with a spacer when short of breath.

 Continue with usual daily preventer medications, including antihistamines for hay fever.

 Reliever inhalers should provide some relief within minutes, if they do not and symptoms rapidly worsen, call 000 and continue using reliever inhaler 4 puffs every 4 minutes.

Further information and instructions for use of inhaler and spacer can be found on the Asthma Australia website, www.asthmaaustralia.org.au.

People who are aware they suffer from pollen related hay fever/asthma should try and stay inside on windy, stormy days to try and reduce triggers.

Symptoms of asthma can include;

 Cough, constant or intermittent

 Increasing shortness of breath at rest

 Wheeze

 Tightness in chest.

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