Thunderstorm Asthma, triggered by freak weather conditions is something everyone should be aware of.
As we move into grass pollen season, in Victoria this is usually from 1st October through 31st December, many people experience the onset of allergies and hay fever.
Thunderstorm asthma is thought to be triggered by a unique combination of high grass pollen levels, high humidity and a thunderstorm combined with strong winds.
During the thunderstorm, pollen grains absorb moisture and then burst into smaller fragments which can be dispersed by the wind. Whilst larger pollen grains can usually be filtered by the hairs in the nose, the smaller ones are able to pass through, enter the lungs and cause breathing difficulty and a possible asthma attack.
Data shows those at risk are adults who react to grass pollen seasonally, whether they currently have asthma or not. Very high at risk are people with poorly controlled asthma.
Whilst epidemic thunderstorm asthma events don’t happen every year, when they does,things need to be taken seriously. A November 2016 storm resulted in a large number of people developing asthma symptoms over a short period of time. The outbreak overwhelmed the emergency system and hospitals.
This led to the Victorian government launching a public health campaign to ensure that all Victorians, and in particular people with asthma and/or hay fever, are as prepared as they can be.
What you need to do
If you are asthmatic:
- visit your doctor to review your current medication
- update your asthma action plan/hay fever treatment plan
- learn asthma first aid and ensure those closest to you know what to do in an emergency
The Australian Asthma Handbook and a dedicated information paper on thunderstorm asthma is available from the National Asthma Council website.
The epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecast is issued throughout the grass pollen season.
If you have further questions on asthma or hay fever please ask your doctor.
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