October 1, 2021

It’s thunderstorm asthma season

Spring is here, and this favourite season often brings thunderstorms and pollen in the air. During grass pollen season, from October through to December, people may notice an increase in asthma and hay fever. These months also bring the chance of thunderstorm asthma.

Kirin Channa, Emergency Physician, explained thunderstorm asthma is thought to be triggered by a unique combination of high amounts of grass pollen in the air and a certain type of thunderstorm.

“For people who have asthma or hay fever, this can trigger severe asthma symptoms. This can become very severe, very quickly and many people may require medical help at the same time,” she said.

People with hay fever are likely to be allergic to grass pollen, and are therefore at increased risk of thunderstorm asthma. Having both asthma and hay fever or poor control of asthma increases the risk further.

“Thunderstorm asthma can affect people of any age, even if they don’t have a history of asthma. Having reliever medication appropriately available during this season and being aware of how to use it, ideally with a spacer is essential. With thunderstorm asthma season fast approaching, now is the time to ensure you have your reliever medication available, and those with asthma should ensure their Asthma Action Plan is up to date,” she added.

Where possible, people should avoid being outside during thunderstorms from October through December, especially in the wind gusts that come before the storm. The usual advice is to stay inside and close your doors and windows, and if you have your air conditioner on, turn it to recirculate.

Jason Amos, Emergency Management added: “ Northern Health has recently updated the Code Brown – External Emergency procedure and the Code Brown Subplan – Thunderstorm Asthma procedure on Prompt to ensure appropriate response to Code Brown/Thunderstorms Asthma events during COVID-19. This is a timely reminder for staff to ensure they are aware of our emergency plans for such events.”

Patients with mild or moderate symptoms can contact Northern Health’s Virtual Emergency Department via nh.org.au/ed

Melbourne Pollen Count and Forecast report on pollen counts the risk of thunderstorm asthma. See the link below to the website and smart phone apps: https://www.melbournepollen.com.au