Victoria ‘owed’ a thunderstorm asthma event

caution warning danger sign thunderstorm

Victorians with hay fever and asthma are being urged to be aware of the risks of thunderstorm asthma… and of COVID-19

The Maroondah City Council issued advice reminding Victorians that the state’s grass pollen season runs from 1 October to 31 December, bringing an increase in asthma and hay fever symptoms and the chance of thunderstorm asthma.

Thunderstorm asthma is triggered by a combination of high pollen levels in the air and certain thunderstorm conditions, and as evidenced in the disastrous event of November 2016, people who have never had asthma before can be affected.

“People with current, past or undiagnosed asthma, suffer seasonal hay fever or are allergic to ryegrass pollen could be at risk of an asthmatic reaction caused by thunderstorm asthma. Having both asthma and hay fever or poorly controlled asthma increases the risk further,” says the Council.

“Hay fever or asthma can produce symptoms similar to coronavirus such as a runny nose, cough or shortness of breath. Anyone who develops these symptoms over the season is urged to get tested for COVID-19.”

Melbourne experienced the world’s largest epidemic thunderstorm asthma event on 21 November 2016, resulting in nine deaths and thousands of people presenting to Victorian public hospital emergency departments with breathing difficulties in a short period of time.

Professor Jo Douglass, a leading allergy experts from The Royal Melbourne Hospital and University of Melbourne, says it is critical that anyone suffering from hay fever or asthma should start taking preventers now, with the pollen count expected to be high following a relatively wet end to winter.

“Research shows that thunderstorm asthma events happen every five to seven years, so we are owed one and it will come, so we want to keep people safe particularly as we navigate through this (COVID-19) pandemic and the best way to stay safe is to take your preventers,” Professor Douglass said.


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