This spring it is more important than ever to speak to your doctor to manage your hay fever and asthma and if your symptoms are new or different to usual – you must get tested for coronavirus.

Hay fever or asthma can produce symptoms similar to coronavirus such as a runny nose, cough or shortness of breath, and while good management can help prevent these, it is critical to get tested for coronavirus if these are different to your usual symptoms.

People who are sneezing and coughing from hay fever or asthma may produce more droplets and if they have coronavirus, it could spread quickly.

People with asthma and hay fever symptoms may also touch their face more frequently, increasing their risk of being infected with coronavirus if they are not practicing appropriate hand hygiene.

Grass pollen season officially begins on 1 October, bringing an increase in asthma and hay fever and the chance of thunderstorm asthma. Victoria’s thunderstorm asthma risk forecasting system will also be switched on and will run until the end of December.

Thunderstorm asthma is where many people experience asthma over a short period of time and is thought to be triggered by a type of thunderstorm when there are high amounts of grass pollen in the air.

Those considered at risk of thunderstorm asthma include people with asthma or hay fever, including those with undiagnosed asthma. The best protection is to have good control of your asthma or hay fever, and where possible avoid exposure to springtime thunderstorms and the wind gusts that come before them.

People with asthma, and particularly those with mild asthma, should see their GP to develop or review their asthma action plan and make sure any associated hay fever is well managed during the pollen season.

To find out more about thunderstorm asthma and how you can protect yourselves and those that you care for from the risks, see Thunderstorm Asthma on the Better Health Channel website.

Thunderstorm asthma risk forecasts are available on the VicEmergency website and app.

For coronavirus updates or to find out where to get tested visit the DHHS coronavirus website.

Your questions answered

Do I need to get tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) if I have hay fever or asthma symptoms?

The symptoms of hay fever and asthma can be similar to coronavirus (COVID-19) and it can be difficult to tell the difference between them. It is important that you do not assume these symptoms are hay fever or asthma.

If you have symptoms that are in any way different to your usual hay fever or asthma symptoms – get tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) and stay home until you get your results.

If you are unsure, you should get tested for coronavirus (COVID -19).

The best way to prevent symptoms of hay fever or asthma is to have an up-to-date hay fever or asthma treatment plan and follow it. If you don’t yet have a plan, now is the time to check in with your GP.

My coronavirus (COVID-19) test is negative and I still have hay fever or asthma symptoms?

If your coronavirus (COVID-19) test is negative and your hay fever or asthma symptoms continue, you should speak to your GP.

Your GP can help with giving advice on how to best treat your symptoms and stop them from coming back. You GP will also be able to provide you with an updated hay fever or asthma treatment plan, including when you might need to get tested again for coronavirus (COVID-19).

What do I do if I have an asthma flare or attack and I’m having difficulty breathing?

If you are experiencing asthma symptoms, follow your asthma action plan or Asthma First Aid.

Contact your GP as soon as possible. Call ahead so your GP clinic can make the appropriate arrangements to keep you and others safe.

If they think your situation needs specific skills or resources, they might refer you to other services and clinics, including to get tested for coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you are having trouble breathing and can’t get a doctor’s appointment easily, go to an emergency department as soon as possible. Please call ahead.

If you have severe trouble breathing or don’t have someone with you, call triple zero (000).

Information for workplaces

What do I do if an employee has symptoms at work, but they have told me it is because they have hay fever or asthma?

Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) that are different to their usual hay fever or asthma symptoms should be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) and should stay home until they receive their results.

People with known hay fever or asthma also need to talk to their GP about ongoing management. 

What do I do if my employee’s test is negative but they still have symptoms?

If an employee has symptoms and their coronavirus (COVID-19) test is negative, they should stay at home until they feel well. If their symptoms continue, they should speak to their GP.

How can a GP help?

People with hay fever or asthma symptoms who need to attend work in person should see their GP for advice on how to best treat symptoms and prevent them from recurring.

A GP will also be able to update their asthma action plan or hay fever treatment plan, including what symptoms might be coronavirus (COVID-19) infection meaning they should immediately get tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) and stay home until a negative result is received.