31 Aug 2017

Thunderstorm Asthma

Thunderstorm Asthma is a term we have all heard of now. It occurred in Melbourne last November where sadly nine people died as a result and ambulance services were stretched to the limit. So what exactly is it?

Thunderstorm Asthma can occur when there are high levels of pollen in the air combined with hot, windy, humid weather conditions. Ryegrass pollen in Spring is released into the air and blown with the wind. The usual pollen size is relatively large and so becomes trapped in the upper airways like the nose and throat. It does not easily reach the lungs.

During a particular type of thunderstorm however, pollen grains absorb moisture, start to swell and then burst into hundreds of tiny pollen starch particles. Storm winds blow these particles to the ground where they are easily inhaled deep into the lungs.

The lungs become irritated, linings become swollen, narrower and more mucus is formed.

People with asthma can be affected but interestingly those with severe hay fever are also affected even if they have never been diagnosed with asthma.

Thunderstorms are more common in Spring so be aware of the pollen count especially on windy days www.sydneypollen.com.au

What can you do to reduce your risk?

  • Firstly see your doctor to make sure that your hay fever due to grass pollen is well treated.
  • Regular use of nasal corticosteroid sprays is more effective than antihistamine tablets for severe hay fever, and both treatments can be used together.
  • Always carry your blue reliever puffer
  • Take your daily preventer and hay fever nasal spray if prescribed
  • Avoid going outside just before and after the thunderstorm
  • Close windows and doors
  • Follow your asthma plan or asthma first aid steps
  • If symptoms are quickly worsening call 000.

Bushfire Season

With the recent controlled bush burn off, smoke and increased air pollution can trigger asthma symptoms – wheezing, breathlessness, persistent coughing and chest tightness.

To limit exposure to the smoke, reduce outdoor activity, close windows and doors and use recirculated air in the car. Make sure you have more than one blue reliever medication with you in case one runs out.

Do you have an asthma plan?

An asthma action plan helps the person with asthma and/or their carer recognise worsening asthma and gives clear instructions on what to do in response.

Click here to see an example of an Asthma Plan

How to recognise signs of a asthma flare-up or attack

If you are experiencing any of these signs, start asthma first aid. Do not wait until asthma is severe. Remember anyone can develop asthma at any age.

 Mild / Moderate
 Minor difficulty breathing
 Able to talk in full sentences
 Able to walk/move around
 May have cough or wheeze

 Commence Asthma First Aid

 Obvious difficulty breathing
 Cannot speak a full sentence in one breath
 Tugging in of the skin between ribs or at base of neck
 May have cough or wheeze
 Reliever medication not lasting as long as usual 
 Call Ambulance on 000
 Commence Asthma First Aid
 Life threatening
 Gasping for breath
 Unable to speak or 1-2 words per breath 
 Confused or exhausted
 Turning blue
 May no longer have wheeze or cough
 Not responding to reliever medication
 Call Ambulance on 000
 Commence Asthma First Aid

If you are experiencing a severe or life-threatening asthma attack, call an ambulance – Dial Triple Zero (000) and then start asthma first aid.

Learn more about First Aid for asthma here: https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/asthma-first-aid


Sister Margaret Bates
College Nurse


115 Cambridge Street
Stanmore NSW 2048
+61 2 0568 9333


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