How to Prepare for Thunderstorm Asthma

September 4, 2018| Health and Wellbeing /

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. 

Respiratory distress can be a serious condition and people affected should seek medical advice. Thunderstorm Asthma is a real medical phenomenon. It is caused by high concentrations of pollen and other particles in the air and affects mainly people who suffer from asthma and/or hay fever. However, some people who may not have had asthma before may react to the high levels of allergens in the air and show symptoms
— Dr Ron Sultana, Director of Emergency Medicine, Epworth Richmond

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:

  1. Be aware of thunderstorm warnings.
  2. Stay inside during a storm.
  3. Be mindful of any asthma symptoms (coughing, chest tightness, wheezing).
  4. Monitor pollen counts.
  5. If you have one, take your preventer regularly.

Always call 000 in an emergency. Epworth offers emergency departments both in Richmond (24/7) and Geelong (8am-midnight).

People who experience asthma symtoms should talk to their doctor before the start of pollen season.
— Jill Hennessy, Minister for Health

    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.

    Learn more at Better Health Australia and Asthma Australia.



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