are you prepared for an epidemic thunderstorm asthma event?
When a large number of people develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time, caused by high amounts of grass pollen and a certain type of thunderstorm, it is known as epidemic thunderstorm asthma.
On 21 November 2016, a freak thunderstorm in Victoria resulted in a 992 per cent increase in asthma-related admissions to Melbourne and Geelong public hospitals.
Epidemic thunderstorm asthma events are uncommon, and don’t occur every year. However, in south east Australia they can happen during grass pollen season between October and December. It is important to be prepared.
Who is at risk?
- People with asthma
- People with undiagnosed asthma (i.e. people who have asthma symptoms but have not yet been diagnosed with asthma)
- Those who have had asthma in the past
- People with hay fever who may or may not have asthma
How can I protect myself?
All people at increased risk of thunderstorm asthma should:
- Learn about thunderstorm asthma and what they can do to protect themselves during grass pollen season
- Where possible, avoid being outside during thunderstorms from October through December – 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
- Have an asthma action plan (if advised to by your GP) and have practical knowledge of the four steps of asthma first aid (image below)
- Have reliever medication appropriately available 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 asthma action plan if you have one, or if you don’t, use asthma first aid
- Check the epidemic thunderstorm forecast during the grass pollen season at VicEmergency
Where can I get help?
- In an emergency, always call triple zero (000)
- The 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)
For more information head to Better Health Channel – Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma