Thunderstorms and allergy

22 Nov 2016


Thunderstorms can trigger serious attacks in people with asthma when the pollen count is high. Humidity, and windy conditions during a thunderstorm cause pollen and mould spores normally too large to inhale to rupture into millions of microscopic particles which can then travel directly into the smaller airways of the lungs triggering asthma.

The recent shocking “thunderstorm asthma” event in Melbourne is an important reminder that even mild asthma sufferers can rapidly become acutely affected and without an action plan and current medication they are at risk.

Medical Director Prof Pete Smith advises,

Thunderstorms cause an 8-20 fold increase in the release of pollens and mould spores. Allergic asthma, rhinitis and conjunctivitis spike with this, but only asthma tends to cause admissions to hospital. However, this pattern is a strong indicator of patients who have significant inhalant allergies. The best we can do for our patients is to work out what their allergies are, how they impact their upper and lower airways; how to reduce exposure risk; ensure that they are using the most effective medications and if appropriate we can do desensitisation to grass pollens or other relevant inhalant allergens.”

While sufferers of asthma may recognise the signs and start implementing their management plan, the symptoms of thunderstorm asthma can be a first-time experience for many people and should be treated seriously and without delay.

Research comparing the data of those who experienced a thunderstorm asthma attack with those who had an asthma attack on other days of the year found that 95 per cent of those affected by thunderstorm asthma had a history of hay fever and 96 per cent tested positive to grass pollen allergies. Of those with a history of asthma, only one in four (27 per cent) of affected cases were taking regular preventer inhalers compared with more than half (56 per cent) of the control group.

Symptoms can be indicators of other inhalant allergies. Prevention is the best treatment and clinical testing and diagnosis is the first step toward understanding and managing allergic health.

Visit us to find out if you’re at risk of allergic asthma, to update your Asthma Action Plan or to be tested and treated for other inhalant allergies such as hay fever and allergic conjunctivitis.

GPs, please visit our online referrals forms for Sydney and Brisbane.



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