After a cold, wet winter, it’s great to welcome spring and early summer.

But for some of us, the news isn’t always good. That’s because from October to December it’s also thunderstorm asthma time. And in 2022 we’re also faced with a La Nina event that threatens to increase the average rainfall, which leads to above average growth of grass. That, in turn can put more ryegrass pollen in the air.1

Thunderstorm asthma occurs when high grass pollen levels coincide with a dramatic change in weather conditions ahead of a thunderstorm.2

In November 2016, Melbourne experienced the world’s largest epidemic thunderstorm asthma event. Thousands very quickly developed breathing difficulties.3 This included people with asthma or a past history of asthma, those with undiagnosed asthma, but alarmingly, also people with seasonal hay fever who had not ever had asthma.1

So, if you have a known allergy to ryegrass pollen, you need to be as prepared as people diagnosed with asthma.

In Victoria, the Health Department publishes an online Epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast from October 1st. You can access it here.

Nationally, you can also go to Pollen Forecast and choose your State and nearest city. And there are also smartphone apps that provide weather forecasts and predicted pollen count. AirRater is an app that looks at air quality in terms of other contaminants (such as smoke), as well as pollen.

Apart from checking the forecasts, what else can you do?

  • If you, or someone you care for, has been diagnosed with asthma, make sure preventer medication is being used as prescribed by your healthcare professional. Also, carry a reliever ‘puffer’1,5
  • Avoid being outdoors during thunderstorms, especially just before a major change in weather pattern1,5
  • If you are able to stay indoors, keep windows closed. If you use an air conditioner, put it into recirculation mode. Same with when driving your car1
  • If you have experienced an allergic reaction (including hay fever) to ryegrass, seek your doctor’s advice about the need for asthma medication – just in case1
  • If your breathing problems become severe, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance — say it is an asthma emergency5

Additional tips

  • Use a spacer with your puffer to make taking your aerosolized medication easier. The Welcare Spacer* and Mask system is designed to optimise the delivery of medication into the lungs while minimising the amount of residual medication remaining in the mouth and throat. Learn more here.
  • Consider an Air Purifier for your home or office. Good quality air purifiers will filter out a number of airborne nasties including pollutants, allergens, and toxins that might be present in the air you breathe.6 Allergens are substances that cause an allergic reaction, including asthma. The Welcare PureAir Household Air Purifier features a 6 Stage Air Purification System including HEPA (H13) filter, UV Light and photocatalyst technology for comprehensive air purification. It can kill airborne viruses, including Influenza, and remove dust, mould, bacteria and other pollutants, making it ideal for those who suffer from allergies. Check out the options here.

Epidemic thunderstorm events don’t occur every year7, but it doesn’t pay to become complacent. Make sure you’re prepared. Keep an eye on forecasts and above all, follow your doctor’s advice on medications.

*ALWAYS READ THE LABEL AND FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR USE.  Single patient use. 

Use only as directed with Metered Dose Inhaler (puffer).

Sources:

  1. https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/news/2022/time-to-prepare-for-thunderstorm-asthma
  2. https://asthma.org.au/blog/tips-to-prepare-for-a-thunderstorm-asthma-event/
  3. https://www.health.vic.gov.au/environmental-health/epidemic-thunderstorm-asthma
  4. https://www.health.vic.gov.au/environmental-health/epidemic-thunderstorm-asthma-risk-forecast
  5. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/thunderstorm-asthma
  6. https://www.livescience.com/how-do-air-purifiers-work
  7. https://www.health.vic.gov.au/environmental-health/epidemic-thunderstorm-asthma-frequently-asked-questions