In November 2016, an unprecedented event of thunderstorm asthma saw over 8,000 people present to emergency departments in hospitals and a devastating nine deaths as people with an allergy to ryegrass pollen developed asthma symptoms and were left struggling to breathe (asthma symptoms including wheezing, breathlessness, a tight feeling in the chest, and/or coughing).
- people with asthma;
- people with undiagnosed asthma (that is, those who may have had asthma symptoms but not yet been diagnosed with asthma);
- people who have had asthma in the past; and
- people who suffer hay fever, who may or may not have asthma.
In order to be prepared, it’s important that everyone (especially those in south-east Australia) is aware of epidemic thunderstorm asthma, and is familiar with the symptoms of asthma and what to do if someone is having an asthma attack.
Those who are at an increased risk (those who have hay fever, asthma, or allergies to pollen) should ensure they understand thunderstorm asthma, make sure they have an asthma action plan and reliever medication readily available, and be alert to the development of asthma symptoms.
It is extremely important that everyone be aware of thunderstorm forecasts – especially on HIGH or EXTREME pollen count days – so that they can look out for themselves and others. Those at risk are advised to stay indoors during thunderstorms with doors closed and any air conditioners set to recirculate.
Never ignore asthma symptoms like breathlessness, wheezing and tightness in the chest. At the onset of any of these symptoms, 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.
If you are an asthma or hay fever sufferer, or if you experience asthma or hay fever symptoms, it’s important that you see a doctor to have your condition assessed and properly diagnosed so that you can be prepared with an action plan prior to the thunderstorm season.
No matter where you are, a pharmacy or doctor’s surgery can assist you – don’t hesitate to seek help. Blue/grey reliever puffers are available over the counter from any pharmacy and they can assist with Asthma First Aid.
For information on recognising signs of an asthma flare-up or attack and how to respond with Asthma First Aid click here.
- - In an emergency, always call triple zero (000)
- - Emergency department of your nearest hospital
- - Your GP
- - Your nearest pharmacy (for medication)
- - NURSE-ON-CALL Tel. 1300 60 60 24 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
- - National Home Doctor Service Tel. 13 SICK (13 7425) for after-hours home GP visits (bulked billed)
- Asthma Australia Helpline Tel. 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462)
- National Asthma Council of Australia Tel. 1800 032 495
- Asthma Australia Asthma App – provides easy access to the latest asthma information, asthma medication and devices, device technique videos, asthma action plans, asthma first aid steps