Factsheet

Thunderstorm asthma

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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.  

These conditions can also 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. 

Be prepared 

The best way to treat thunderstorm asthma is to try and avoid it happening by: 

  • Following your written asthma action plan and making sure your asthma is under control  

  • Booking a review with your doctor, particularly if you haven’t previously had a diagnosis of asthma and are experiencing regular symptoms 

  • Taking your preventer medication if prescribed by your doctor 

What to do if a thunderstorm is forecast 

  • 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. 

More information 

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