BE PREPARED FOR THUNDERSTORM ASTHMA SEASON
It is important to be thunderstorm asthma aware and prepared for the upcoming thunderstorm season, it could save your life or your loved one.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there is a greater risk of an Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma event occurring this year due to a wet spring encouraging grass growth. This is caused by the La’Nina effect, which usually means above-average winter-spring rainfall for Australia.
To ensure all members of the community are best prepared this thunderstorm season, Asthma Australia has information to help if an Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma warning is issued.
Click here to view additional Thunderstorm Asthma resources and information in multiple languages.
WHAT IS THUNDERSTORM ASTHMA?
Thunderstorm asthma can be very serious for people with asthma.
Thunderstorm asthma events are believed to be triggered by an uncommon combination of high grass pollen levels and a certain type of thunderstorm, causing pollen grains from grasses to be swept up in the wind and carried long distances.
If grass pollen is a problem for you then thunderstorms in spring and summer may also affect you.
Some pollens can burst open and release tiny particles that are concentrated in the wind just before the thunderstorm. These small particles get deep into the airways and can trigger asthma symptoms.
To avoid exposure, stay inside with the windows and doors closed until after the storm has passed.
For more information, download our Thunderstorm Asthma Info Sheet.
ARE YOU AT RISK?
People at risk of acute asthma flare-ups triggered by a thunderstorm include those with:
- seasonal hay fever,
- current asthma,
- a history of asthma or
- undiagnosed asthma.
The risk of thunderstorm asthma is highest in adults who are sensitive to grass pollen and have seasonal hay fever (with or without known asthma). The worst outcomes are seen in people with poorly controlled asthma. Take the Asthma Control Test to determine your level of asthma control.
To reduce the risk of thunderstorm asthma where it is a known trigger, it is recommended to aim for optimum asthma management year-round. This means;
- Optimising preventer use during spring thunderstorm season
- Controlling hay fever
- Checking pollen levels and avoiding exposure to pollen on these days where possible.
MANAGE YOUR RISK OF THUNDERSTORM ASTHMA
Managing your risk of thunderstorm asthma is so important for people with asthma. To help here are are some ways you can manage your risk;
- Learn about thunderstorm asthma and determine whether or not you are at risk
- Talk to your doctor about the need for inhaled preventer medicine and appropriate treatment for your allergies, including hay fever.
- Have a written Asthma Action Plan (where advised by your doctor) and/or have practical knowledge of the 4 steps of Asthma First Aid
- Have reliever medication available and with you at all times in grass pollen season and be aware of how to use it (ideally with a spacer)
- Be alert to and act on the development of asthma symptoms as explained in your written Asthma Action Plan if you have one, or if you don’t, use Asthma First Aid
- Be aware of thunderstorm forecasts particularly on HIGH or EXTREME pollen count days and where possible avoid being outside during thunderstorms in the grass pollen season – especially in the wind gusts that come before the storm. Go inside and close your doors and windows and if you have your air conditioner on, turn it to recirculate. For thunderstorm asthma forecasts and alerts in Victoria go to the Vic Emergency website.
- Never ignore asthma symptoms like breathlessness, wheezing and tightness in the chest. Start Asthma First Aid immediately and call Triple Zero (000) for help if symptoms do not get any better or if they start to get worse.
At least six weeks prior to pollen season is the time to take action, make an appointment with your doctor, discuss your asthma and allergy management plan and ensure you have all you need to be prepared for the thunderstorm and pollen seasons.
For up-to-date pollen levels in each state, check our website here or visit the relevant site below:
Victoria, QLD, ACT and NSW: AusPollen website or app
Tasmania and ACT: AirRater website or app
If you find you are affected by thunderstorm asthma, follow our Asthma Emergency steps.