With global warming likely to make Canberra's pollen season worse, an expanded network of monitoring stations would help authorities make better public health warnings for people with hay fever and asthma, the city's leading pollen expert says.
It comes after the city has recorded a string of days with extreme pollen concentrations, the most intense period of pollen concentration in the decade since records started.
The Australian National University's Professor Simon Haberle said additional monitoring stations would help people understand when and where pollen was its worst.
"There's no point in mowing all the grass down and cutting all the trees down. That's not a solution. That's not what we advocate at all. It's just better planning and better understanding of what causes these higher pollen days, and that can help immensely," Professor Haberle said.
Professor Haberle, who has led an effort to track pollen levels in Canberra for a decade, said exotic grasses - such as ryegrass, used to improve pastures - had contributed to the recent extreme pollen days.
He said Canberra had an extended pollen season because the city was landlocked, surrounded by grasses and had big treescapes and large gardens.
Professor Haberle said climate change predictions suggested the situation would only get worse in the ACT.
"Simply because the warmer months and the potential flowering seasons will be potentially longer. Increased [carbon dioxide] in the atmosphere is also believed to drive more productivity of pollen. It's one of the consequences of increased [carbon dioxide]," he said.
"So all the indicators stack up to suggest that allergenic pollen will be around for longer and perhaps in more abundance as we go into the next few years."
A pollen monitoring station at Australian National University's Acton campus gave a good indication of the pollen levels in central Canberra, but researchers did not know what the situation was in the northern and southern suburbs, Professor Haberle said.
"This is an area that we really need to improve and get a better understanding of just what is the local variability. To do that would be a really game-changer and a step forward in our understanding of how these air particles vary across the Canberra landscapes," he said.
Professor Haberle said adding pollen monitoring stations to the existing air quality monitoring stations at Monash and Florey would provide a rich data set.
"The other thing we want to do is actually put a station out to the north west of us and the reason for that is that the really high grass pollen days are when we have really strong north-westerly winds blowing in, and that brings a lot of grass pollen into the city," he said.
"If we had a monitoring station out in that region, Murrumbateman, Yass area, we could actually provide some almost advanced warning, if you like."
Last week, ACT Health warned a thunderstorm asthma event was possible when the high pollen levels combined with forecast storm activity for the city.
Dr Stuart Schembri, the director for respiratory and sleep medicine at the Canberra Hospital, said thunderstorm asthma events happened when pollen was drawn up into the atmosphere, absorbed water and burst into very fine particles, which were blown around by wind.
"Individuals who have pre-existing sensitivity, whether they know it or not, are going to be more likely to have an asthma attack during that time," Dr Schembri said.
"We know if someone is sensitive to pollen and controls their asthma before [a thunderstorm event], they're less likely to come a cropper."
He said people were more likely to be affected during a storm's windy period before it began raining.
Dr Schembri said it was important for people to keep their asthma plans up to date to make sure the condition was effectively managed before a possible thunderstorm asthma event.
"If the symptoms are bad - so they're very breathless, they cannot complete full sentences in one breath, they're feeling exhausted - then clearly that's triple zero. If your symptoms are mild, then it needs to be an assessment whether it's an emergency [department] visit or an early appointment to your GP," he said.
"If your symptoms are more on the ... very mild spectrum, then a routine assessment would be necessary."
Dr Schembri said in the event of a thunderstorm, people who are sensitive to pollen should shelter out of the wind - and remember that face masks do not filter out pollen.
"Because it's the wind that blows pollen, if you stay either indoors or in a car with the windows closed, that is ideal. If you are indoors or in a car and you want to use your ventilation, use it on circulate rather than drawing new air in from outside," he said.