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How to treat Thunderstorm Asthma

Spring is finally here. And with it comes better weather, increased allergies and the risk of Thunderstorm Asthma. So what is Thunderstorm Asthma?

During spring there are a lot of grass pollen grains floating around in the air. (If you suffer from hayfever, you probably already know this.) What happens during a thunderstorm is that literally billions of these tiny pollen grains are sucked up into the clouds. As they float among the clouds, they absorb so much water they actually swell up and burst into hundreds of billions of even tinier pollen fragments. These fragments are so small they swirl through the air and are easily breathed into people’s lungs.

Thunderstorm Asthma can be so bad, it can even affect people who have never suffered from asthma before. (Remember November 2016? 10 people in Melbourne died during one of the worst thunderstorm asthma events on record!)

If you are currently asthmatic or have had asthma before, or even if you tend to get hay fever and suffer allergies like rye grass pollen, you are among the people most at risk of Thunderstorm Asthma. Symptoms include chest tightness, being short of breath, wheezing as you breathe and also coughing persistently.

You are most at risk of thunderstorm asthma during the strong winds that start to blow before any of the rain actually starts falling. So, it’s better to take actual preventative action before it starts raining.

Here are some practical steps to take to reduce the risk of Thunderstorm Asthma:

1. Always have your reliever medication with you.

2. Try to stay inside during thunderstorms and keep your doors and windows closed.

3. If you are caught outside, getting into a car can help reduce the risk.

4. If you have the airconditioning on, set it to recirculate the air, don’t let fresh air in from outside.

5. Remember many filters don’t prevent the tiny pollen fragments from getting through.

If you do get caught outside during a thunderstorm and start experiencing symptoms, take immediate action. Always use your asthma reliever inhaler or “puffer” as you would normally do. And if you normally take hay fever preventer medication start taking that too.

If your breathing gets worse don’t hesitate to call 000 for an ambulance. Always let them know it’s a “Thunderstorm Asthma Emergency”. If you are caught without your inhaler you must call 000 urgently.

If you are out with someone who has a Thunderstorm Asthma attack, keep them calm, sit them upright and reassure them you have called an ambulance. Stay with them till help arrives.

If you would like to know more, get trained in First Aid at


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