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 have 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:

  • See your doctor about your hay fever and get a treatment plan sorted out in time for spring
  • If you have asthma or have experienced breathing problems, see your doctor for an asthma and lung health review
  • Take your regular daily asthma preventer medication, if you have been prescribed one
  • Ask your doctor for an up-to-date personal asthma action plan and follow it
  • Know the signs of worsening asthma and the asthma first aid steps
  • Always carry your reliever (e.g. Ventolin or Bricanyl)

What to do if a thunderstorm is forecast during pollen season

  • Make sure your reliever is handy and is not out-of-date or empty
  • Stay inside just before, during and after the thunderstorm, and be alert for asthma symptoms
  • 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.

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