Stay ahead of the storm: Vital tips to safeguard against thunderstorm asthma risk

All you need to know to prevent thunderstorm asthma. Source: Getty Images.

Spring is in the air and with it, grass pollen, prompting the Victorian government to encourage residents to take proactive measures in protecting themselves from the potential threat of thunderstorm asthma.

October to December is typically grass pollen season in Victoria and refers to the time of year when grasses release their pollen into the air. This can trigger allergic reactions in some individuals, leading to hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and other respiratory issues.

Certain weather conditions, particularly thunderstorms, can trigger severe asthma attacks in individuals who are sensitive to specific allergens, such as pollen. This phenomenon is most commonly observed in regions with grass pollen and is known to affect people with a history of hay fever or pollen allergies.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Dr Clare Looker stressed that “now’s the time to get on top of your asthma action plan or hay fever treatment plan”.

“Learn asthma first aid and monitor the epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast throughout grass pollen season,” Looker said.

“Our epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecasting and warning system means Victorians have the information they need to stay safe this grass pollen season.”

Plan ahead by using Victoria’s risk forecasting system

The best way to avoid thunderstorm asthma is to plan ahead by making use of the state’s world-class risk forecasting system which is operating from October 1 until 31 December. This system enables people who have asthma or seasonal hay fever – and who are at risk – to plan ahead and reduce their risk.

Launched in 2017, the system gives a three-day forecast showing the risk of this type of event, from low (green), moderate (orange) to high (red) risk, across the nine Victorian weather districts.

The epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast with advice and warnings is available on the following platforms:

What you can do on high-risk forecast days if you suffer from asthma or hay fever: 

  • Avoid storms and wind gusts by going indoors
  • Close all windows and doors
  • Turn off air conditioners that bring air in from outside
  • Use air purifiers
  • Take your medications as prescribed by your health professional
  • Use a face mask in extremely high risk situations
  • Have a plan in case of asthma exacerbation
  • Seek medical help when required

National Asthma Council Australia Director and respiratory physician Professor Peter Wark encouraged Victorians to take good day-to-day control of their conditions by taking preventer medication as prescribed by their doctor.

“A blue reliever inhaler does not stop the inflammation that causes asthma and will not prevent an asthma attack,” Wark said.

“Now is the time to check in with your GP to review your asthma plan and know what to do during a spring thunderstorm or asthma emergency.”

The current outlook is for an average grass pollen season for Victoria this year. Those at risk should still ensure they take any prescribed medication as directed and follow their asthma action plan or use asthma first aid if they experience symptoms.

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up