Asthma Australia is urging people with asthma and hay fever, particularly those sensitive to pollen and grasses, to take immediate precautions for a thunderstorm asthma event forecast to hit Greater Melbourne and parts of regional Victoria tomorrow.

Grass pollen levels are peaking across the state this week, with high and extreme pollen counts expected.

People at risk of an acute asthma flare-up or attack triggered by a thunderstorm include those with seasonal hay fever (with or without known asthma), asthma, a history of asthma and adults who are sensitive and have allergies to grass pollen.

To avoid exposure, Asthma Australia is advising for those at risk to stay inside with the windows and doors closed until after the storm has passed.

Other advice includes:

  • Ensure you have a reliever puffer and spacer if applicable for your puffer device, at hand. Reliever puffers and spacers are available over the counter at any pharmacy.
  • Go inside and close your doors and windows and if you have your air conditioner on, turn it to recirculate
  • Act quickly if you notice any asthma symptoms as explained in your written Asthma Action Plan if you have one, or if you don’t, use Asthma First Aid
  • Ensure you or a loved one know the signs and symptoms of asthma and the steps for asthma first aid and what to do in an asthma emergency asthma.org.au/about-asthma/live-with-asthma/asthma-attack
  • Continue to take your preventer medication and appropriate treatment for your allergies, including hay fever.
  • Keep abreast of changes in weather conditions. 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.

Asthma First Aid for blue/grey reliever medication

  1. Sit the person upright
  2. Give 4 separate puffs of a blue/grey reliever puffer3.
  3. Wait 4 minutes
  4. Repeat
  5. If no improvement call Triple Zero (000)
  6. Continue to give 4 separate puffs of a blue/grey reliever puffer every 4 minutes until the ambulance arrives
  7. If your reliever is not a blue/grey puffer style, see our Asthma First Aid chart here

Important Contacts

  • 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) for asthma education and support.
  • National Home Doctor Service 13 SICK (13 74 25) for after-hours home doctor visits (bulked billed)
  • To speak to a registered nurse, call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222*(this is an Australian wide 24-hour triage)
  • If you are unable to access a General Practitioner, call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) available 24hrs 7 days. https://www.health.qld.gov.au/13health (available in QLD only)
  • In an emergency, always call Triple Zero (000)

One in nine Australians have asthma and every person’s asthma has different triggers. It’s important people know and understand their triggers to stay safe in extreme weather.

Thunderstorm asthma events are 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.

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.

If you would like to learn more about Thunderstorm asthma, asthma management and how to keep asthma under control in unexpected weather events, call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) or visit asthma.org.au/about-asthma/triggers/extreme-weather.