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What is Thunderstorm Asthma?
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If you have asthma or hay fever, you may be at risk of thunderstorm asthma- particularly in spring and summer. Thunderstorm asthma can be very dangerous, leading to severe difficulty breathing. It can be life-threatening, even in people who do not usually get asthma. If you have asthma or hay fever, you should speak to your doctor about how to protect yourself, in advance of thunderstorm season.

What causes Thunderstorm Asthma?

It is thought that thunderstorm asthma events are caused by a combination of high grass pollen levels in the air and a certain type of thunderstorm. Pollen grains get swept up, carried long distances and can can burst apart in these conditions. This releases tiny particles that can get deep into a person's airways, triggering asthma symptoms.

Some steps to take to protect yourself against Thunderstorm Asthma:

  • Make sure your asthma is properly controlled (see below). If it is not, speak to your doctor. You can also take an Asthma Control Test , available on the Asthma Australia website - and see your doctor urgently if your score is under 20.
  • Discuss treatment of asthma and hay fever regularly with your doctor, particularly if you have symptoms or if there is high risk weather coming. Have an asthma action plan.
  • Use your asthma preventer inhaler every day during high risk weather,  even when well.
  • Carry an asthma reliever puffer with you at all times
  • If you have hay fever, use a steroid nasal spray every day when the pollen count is high.
  • Follow your local weather forecast for warnings about high thunderstorm asthma risk levels (For VIC, NSW, ACT and QLD go HERE to monitor the pollen forecast, and for TAS go HERE).
  • Stay indoors with windows shut on days the pollen count or thunderstorm asthma risk is known to be high.

See a doctor immediately or call Triple Zero (000) if you experience difficulty breathing.

Signs of Good Asthma Control

Asthma is well controlled if :

  • most days, you don’t have any breathing difficulties, cough or wheeze.
  • you generally sleep through the night, without waking due to asthma symptoms like cough, wheeze, or chest tightness
  • you can exercise without getting asthma symptoms (some people need to use their reliever beforehand, to achieve this)
  • you don’t miss work or school due to asthma
  • you do not need to use your reliever inhaler more than 2 times per week (except for exercise)

Asthma control can also be checked by having a breathing test (spirometry).


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