When the first canola crops begin flowering, Dr Bruce Graham climbs onto his roof.
That is where the Charles Sturt University lecturer keeps his Burkard machine.
For one hour each day, he uses it to trap pollen spores from the air around his Gurwood Street home.
Counting how many end up on the microscopic slide inside the machine, he can build a picture of how the day’s pollen density is tracking.
Coupled with the daily weather forecast, that information can prove potentially life saving.
“The worst time for asthma and hayfever in Wagga tends to be around the end of September and into October,” said Dr Graham.
A thunderstorm near the end of spring can promote the worst conditions.
After rain and electrical activity, charged wet ryegrass spores can lead to attacks like that of Melbourne’s 2016 thunderstorm event, which caused the death of 10 people.
“It’s quite regional the triggers,” Dr Graham said. “In Sydney, the main trigger tends to be mould or dust mites, that’s less of a problem here because it’s less humid. Here the grass pollen gets to people.”
Dr Graham joined the Murrumbidgee Local Health District on Wednesday at Kildare Catholic College to launch a springtime survival campaign.
Using the university’s Burkard machine, Dr Graham demonstrated how even on mornings that still bear the memory of winter chill, the pollen count can be high.
“I think because the crops have struggled a little this year, people are thinking there won’t be too much pollen about,” said Dr Graham.
“It’s not the crops this year, it’s the ryegrass. There’s pollen on the ground as well as on plants and when that wind picks up it knocks it all about.”
When this happens, even people who have never experienced an asthmatic attack may start to suffer.
“It’s really important to be warned, to be prepared and to have an action plan in place,” said MLHD’s respiratory clinical nurse Yolanda Louvey.
Ms Louvey works across Wagga on GP referral, helping asthmatic people build preventative measures.
“People who are prone to seasonal allergies need to see their doctor before it becomes a problem. It comes done to a combination of prevention and well-preparedness,” Ms Louvey said.