Thunderstorm asthma warning for Victorians as grass pollen season hits

Seek help from a GP if your hay fever and asthma is playing up.

With spring well and truly underway, health experts are urging asthma and hay fever sufferers to be on alert.

Victorians are being urged to go and visit their GP to make sure their asthma action plan or hay fever management plan is up to date.

On 21 November 2016, Melbourne experienced the world’s largest epidemic thunderstorm asthma event, which resulted in the deaths of 10 people and thousands of calls to triple zero.

Since then, a lot of work has been done to establish the risk factors and danger days.

According to the National Asthma Council, thunderstorm asthma can happen quickly, and can affect people who have never had asthma.

“By the last weekend of September, you should be taking your hay fever nasal spray, asthma preventer, or both – and you shouldn’t stop until New Year’s Day (most adults with asthma do need to take a preventer all year, not just in springtime).”

Respiratory specialist from Monash University Professor Frank Thien, who is also Eastern Health’s Director of Respiratory Medicine, said people who have hay fever are more predisposed to suffering a thunderstorm asthma attack.

“So it is important to treat hay fever with antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays,” he said.

“If someone with hay fever experiences breathing difficulties, such as shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing, they should see their GP as they may need to be on preventer inhaler asthma medication during hay fever season.

“For people with diagnosed asthma, it is important to stay indoors on high-risk days of thunderstorm asthma and have an action plan in place.

“They should also have regular reviews with their GP about their medication and asthma control, and always carry their reliever medication with them and use it as prescribed.”