Be aware of thunderstorm asthma this spring

By Deakin Medical Centres

Providing accessible and confidential medical services for all current students and staff.

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We’re already experiencing milder weather across our campuses, but with spring comes wind, storms and increased pollen which can be a nightmare if you’re prone to asthma, hay fever or allergies. There’s also the risk of thunderstorm asthma, an epidemic activated by a particular combination of small fragments of grass pollen carried in the dry, cold air before a thunderstorm.

Prepare yourself for spring by identifying your triggers, knowing the symptoms, purchasing treatment options and educating yourself about thunderstorm asthma.

Triggers

Spring is particularly bad for asthma and hay fever sufferers because there is more grass pollen in the air. 80% of people who have asthma also have hay fever. Deakin AIRwatch is worth checking out for daily grass-pollen forecasts.

Symptoms

Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and sometimes chest tightness. You may also have symptoms of hay fever which include itchy eyes, a runny nose and sneezing.

Treatment options

If you suffer from asthma, you probably already have a puffer and an asthma action plan, but it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor if you’re experiencing new symptoms. You can use a variety of treatments for hay fever – corticosteroid nasal sprays, antihistamine tablets, saline sprays or decongestants. Talk to a pharmacist for recommendations and always carry your treatment option with you.

Thunderstorm asthma 

Thunderstorm asthma is a serious epidemic which occurs due to the combination of grass pollen and particular types of storms (high winds and rains). Thunderstorm asthma can affect a wide variety of people – even people who have never experienced symptoms of asthma or hay fever before. In 2016 Victoria experienced a particularly bad season for thunderstorm asthma. The highest risk period will be the first 3 weeks of November.

Thunderstorm asthma symptoms are similar to asthma symptoms, but they’re more intense, and can include breathlessness, a tight feeling in the chest, wheezing and coughing. These symptoms can also increase rapidly and dangerously. 

If you are a hay fever or asthma-sufferer, you’re at increased risk of experiencing thunderstorm asthma. It’s important to take extra precautions during thunderstorm asthma season (October – December). Here are some ways you can be prepared.

  • Be aware of thunderstorm forecasts: download the VicEmergency app from the Google Play or the App Store and set up a ‘watch zone’ for your location to receive updates and warnings of oncoming storms.
  • If a storm is coming, stay inside, close all doors and windows and turn your air conditioner off.
  • Be ready to administer asthma first aid in an emergency, or call 000. The National Asthma Council Australia has instructions on how to administer asthma first aid.

The relationships between asthma, hay fever and thunderstorm asthma is a complex one, and treatment will vary depending on your combination of symptoms and whether or not you’ve had symptoms before. It’s best to speak to your doctor if you’re experiencing new symptoms and want advice. Make an appointment with a Deakin Medical Centre now.

Visit Asthma Australia or the Better Health Channel for more information, or for a handy overview, download this brochure.




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