‘Thunderstorm asthma’ warning for Qld, NSW

THE National Asthma Council Australia is warning everyone in Queensland and NSW who experience “wheezing and sneezing” to take extra care, with storms forecast for parts of each state each day this week.

The expected thunderstorm conditions, together with current high pollen counts, can lead to breathing problems being experienced, not only by people with asthma but those who experience significant hay fever.

People who wheeze and sneeze with hay fever from pollens during spring are most likely to be affected, even if they do not have pre-existing asthma.


Dr Jonathan Burdon AM, Chair of the National Asthma Council Australia and respiratory physician, said with the increasing incidence of asthma triggered by unusual weather conditions, it important to take preventative steps.

“As we have seen with the recent events in Melbourne any serious asthma attack can be life-threatening and have tragic consequences.

“Act quickly if you start to have symptoms such as shortness of breath or wheezing.

“The best way to treat thunderstorm asthma is to avoid it happening by making sure your asthma is under control and following your written asthma action plan.

“If you haven’t previously had a diagnosis of asthma and are experiencing regular symptoms, book in to have a review with your doctor. You may benefit from preventer medication and having an action plan for emergencies.”

What is ‘thunderstorm asthma’?

‘Thunderstorm asthma’ is a potent mix of pollen and weather conditions that can trigger severe asthma symptoms.

It occurs when a storm strikes on a hot and windy day during pollen season when there are high levels of pollen in the air. When the storm front hits, the pollen grains absorb the moisture and burst into tiny particles.

The thunderstorm outflow winds blow these particles down to ground level, where they can then get inhaled deep inside the lungs and trigger a serious asthma attack.

In Australia, one in 10 adults and children have asthma. Around four out of five people with asthma also have
allergies, such as pollen-related hay fever.

For more information, visit the National Asthma Council Australia website www.nationalasthma.org.au

The National Asthma Council Australia has issued the following advice for thunderstorm asthma.

What to do if a thunderstorm is forecast:

  • Always carry your blue reliever puffer with you
  • Make sure you take your regular daily preventer, if you have been prescribed one
  • Know the signs of worsening asthma and the asthma first aid steps
  • If you start developing any signs of asthma, follow your personal asthma action plan, if you have
    one, or the asthma first aid steps
  • If your asthma symptoms are rapidly worsening, call 000 and say you are having an asthma attack.
  • If you know you are sensitive to pollen, it might help to stay inside on high pollen and windy days,
    and just before, during and after a thunderstorm, but stay alert for asthma symptoms.