Thunderstorm Asthma

Last year, 8500 people were hospitalised and nine died from asthma attacks after thunderstorms tore across Melbourne.


But why did this happen?

The pollen season occurs from early October to late December, as hay fever sufferers will tell you.

For a thunderstorm asthma event to occur, the perfect blend of conditions must be met: high pollen count in the air, humidity and a northerly wind.

When a thunderstorm strikes — one that’s just right — pollen grains absorb moisture and explode into tiny particles.

Storm winds scatter the particles in the air, sweeping them across long distances, where they can easily be inhaled deep into the lungs.

For asthma sufferers, this fires up an attack. But it also means people who haven’t been diagnosed with asthma can be a victim.

St John Ambulance Victoria chief executive Gordon Botwright said attacks could strike quickly.

“Thunderstorm asthma is a particular threat for those who already suffer from hay fever or asthma, but during the 2016 storms, 40 per cent of people who were struck by thunderstorm asthma were not diagnosed asthmatics,” Mr Botwright said.

“It’s important to recognise when simple hayfever symptoms turn in to an asthma emergency.”

If you sneeze and wheeze during spring, speak to a doctor or pharmacist to prepare a plan of action.

In the meantime, stay inside with the windows and doors shut when there’s a spring thunderstorm.

People experiencing symptoms are advised to take four puffs of an inhaler, wait four minutes, take another four breaths, and if necessary, have another four puffs before dialling 000.