Belmont, Perth,

Spring brings bloom in asthma emergencies

Paramedics are expected to respond to a spike in asthma-related calls in spring in WA.

With September heralding the start of spring, St John Ambulance Western Australia is advising people who suffer with respiratory problems to ensure their medications are up-to-date and not running low.

Last spring, paramedics responded to a 20 per cent increase in calls for asthma-related medical emergencies in WA, attending more than 110 incidents compared to less than 90 a month during the rest of the year.

St John Metropolitan Ambulance Service General Manager James Sherriff said spring is notorious for triggering symptoms in allergy sufferers.

“Hayfever, hives and reactions to insect bites and stings: they are all associated with spring here in WA – but asthma attacks result in more than double the calls to triple zero (000) for allergy sufferers in spring,” Mr Sherriff said.

In comparison to a monthly average of 110 asthma-related calls received by triple zero (000) during spring, less than 40 calls are received for anaphylaxis and 13 for bites and stings.

“Asthma attacks can quickly escalate from breathlessness or a coughing fit to a condition that is life-threatening, with the patient struggling to breathe. It is critical that asthma sufferers ensure they keep their puffer medication nearby, and ensure they have an adequate supply of in-date medication”

“If you don’t have your medication nearby or it isn’t relieving your symptoms, then do not hesitate to call triple zero. As I’ve said – asthma attacks can worsen rapidly,” Mr Sherriff explained.

“Anyone who witnesses someone suffering an asthma attack and is not breathing should immediately call triple zero and then start CPR.”

This spring, St John has teamed up with horticultural expert, Sabrina Hahn, to highlight some allergy risks in the great outdoors. Ms Hahn said many allergies are triggered by the air born pollens from wind pollinated plants such as grasses pines and weeds, such as Pellitory – also known as the asthma weed.

“Avoid trees such as birches, planes, alder, ash, elm, liquid amber, poplar, olives and male she-oaks. Shrubs such as privet and wattle are also notorious for upsetting asthmatics and those who live in rural areas can also be affected by Paterson's curse and rye-grasses," she said.

Ms Hahn said there are a wide range of low-allergen plants that don’t pose the same health risks.

“Trees such as lillypilly, melaleuca, bauhina, almond, all citrus, agonic and most eucalypts are safe, while shrubs such as ebelia, azalea, camellia, banksia, bottlebrush and viburnums are all low allergen.” she said.