The service provides a daily pollen forecast of grass pollen levels in the air around Victoria for the next 3 days. Forecasts are issued at 7:30am every day. Additional forecasts for other pollen types and for longer periods are available via the Melbourne Pollen App available on the Google Play store and Apple Store. Our forecasts alert those with hay fever and seasonal asthma of the likelihood of being exposed to high levels of grass or other pollen pollen and enables them to take preventative measures in danger periods.
People with hay fever and/or seasonal asthma or who care for people with these allergic conditions stand to benefit from the information provided by the service.
Hay fever and seasonal asthma are allergic conditions and grass pollen is one of the main triggers. Allergy generally is a significant public health issue that affects more than four million Australians. The prevalence of asthma in Australia is among the highest in the world and affects around 1 in 9 people with 3-10% of these having severe asthma. About 1 in 5 Australians have allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
If forewarned, people with hayfever and asthma can take preventative measures such as avoiding high pollen areas (e.g. gardens and the countryside) or by taking appropriate medication with them when venturing outside.
The School of BioSciences has the facilities to measure pollen levels across Victoria. Daily measurements are taken and combined with the weather forecast to produce a grass pollen forecast. For the collection of pollen, air is sampled with a Burkard Volumetric Air Sampler located in Parkville. This collects the pollen grains (and of course other particles from the air) on a microscope slide coated with a special glue that remains sticky on hot days and when it's raining. The slide is removed from the sampler daily and stained so that the pollen grains can be counted when viewed with a microscope.
For more than 30 years, we have been measuring the grass pollen levels in Melbourne's air. Since the epidemic thunderstorm asthma event in November 2016, the School has provided this service in collaboration with the Victorian Department of Health and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. This collaboration enabled pollen monitoring to be done at more places in Victoria and for statewides forecasts to be produced.
The service is under the direction of Dr Edwin Lampugnani, a research scientist in the School of BioSciences.