How to prepare for thunderstorm asthma
If you get hay fever (sneezing, running or blocked nose and itchy eyes) during Spring you are at risk of thunderstorm asthma.
Patients with hay fever who have never reported asthma symptoms can have their first attack in thunderstorm conditions. In Melbourne, thunderstorm asthma epidemics usually happen in Spring, around October and November.
Director of Emergency Medicine at Epworth Geelong, Dr Matt Ryan advises that people experiencing any breathing problems should phone 000 for an ambulance.
When does it happen?
Several days of elevated pollen counts and warm conditions, followed by a sudden cool change, causes a rupture of pollen grains into tiny particles. These can be breathed into the lower airways and cause asthma.
What to do when thunderstorm asthma strikes again?
We often hear that prevention is the best medicine, and that rings true when it comes to asthma. Epworth and Austin Health Respiratory Physician and Allergist Dr Michael Sutherland, who published a report on the 2010 thunderstorm asthma epidemic, offers his top five recommendations for avoiding thunderstorm asthma:
Be aware of thunderstorm warnings.
Stay inside during a storm.
Be mindful of any asthma symptoms (coughing, chest tightness, wheezing).
If you have one, take your preventer regularly.
What is the government doing?
The Victorian Government has announced a $15m investment in order to better predict and respond to emergencies like thunderstorm asthma. As part of that investment, a thunderstorm asthma forecasting system is due to start up again from 1st October 2018.
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