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RACGP issues thunderstorm asthma warning


Matt Woodley


14/11/2022 5:35:44 PM

The college is urging the community to know the risks, signs, and appropriate steps to take as pollen levels rise.

Sydney thunderstorm
Thunderstorm asthma take places when thunderstorms occur during high pollen periods, usually from October to December in Victoria and New South Wales.

In 2016, a single thunderstorm asthma event claimed 10 lives and triggered a 672% rise in respiratory-related presentations to Melbourne and Geelong public hospitals.
 
And while much of the focus for respiratory medicine remains on COVID, the college is reminding people that it is peak thunderstorm asthma season and it can affect anyone – even those who do not have a known history of asthma and have never experienced asthma symptoms.
 
‘Be alert and be prepared because this promises to be a particularly dangerous thunderstorm asthma season,’ RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price said.
 
‘Recent high rainfall levels and warm, humid weather has allowed grass to bloom, and thunderstorm asthma events could prove deadly, just like in 2016.
 
‘There is no need to be unnecessarily alarmed but it is important to take this seriously and there are positive steps you should take without delay. People who suffer from hay fever as well as current, past, or undiagnosed asthmatics are at increased risk and should be prepared to carefully monitor and manage symptoms in the months ahead.
 
‘We strongly recommend you monitor the thunderstorm asthma risk, carry your reliever with you at all times, take your preventive medication even if asthma symptoms aren’t present, avoid being outdoors when storms strike or during the winds that often precede storm events and follow your asthma action plan to the letter.’
 
Thunderstorm asthma take places when thunderstorms occur during high pollen periods, usually from October to December in Victoria and New South Wales. Symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing and coughing.
 
As well as people with asthma, those with allergic rhinitis or ryegrass and pollen allergy are at higher risk.
 
Professor Price has directed vulnerable patients to contact their GP, while general practice staff can also access a college fact sheet for advice on how to best help patients at risk of thunderstorm asthma.
 
‘If you don’t have an asthma action plan now is a great opportunity to arrange one,’ she said.
 
‘I’m sure many GPs and general practice teams will take full advantage of the RACGP’s helpful thunderstorm asthma resource and continue to do everything possible to help keep people safe.
 
‘That includes displaying notices in clinics with facts and information … [raising] the topic of thunderstorm asthma, and making sure that patients have access to preventers and relievers as part of their asthma plan.
 
‘The 2016 event also showed the importance of increasing awareness in the general community, as people with no known history of asthma were affected. It is important people are prepared when there is a possibility of high pollen counts and thunderstorms occurring at the same time, and that more people recognise the symptoms of an asthma attack so they are better prepared to help people who may be affected.
 
‘By working together and being prepared we can save lives in coming months.
 
‘No one can 100% predict when thunderstorm asthma will strike, but we can prevent harm by being aware of the dangers and taking sensible precautions.’
 
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