Media Releases

Thunderstorm asthma advice – South Australians who “wheeze and sneeze” urged to take extra care

23 Dec 2016

National Asthma Council Australia is warning South Australians who experience wheezing and sneezing to take extra care, ahead of predicted thunderstorms over the Christmas period.

The forecasted thunderstorm conditions, together with current high pollen counts, can 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.

Dr Jonathan Burdon AM, Chair of the National Asthma Council Australia and respiratory physician, said with the increasing incidence of asthma triggered by unusual weather conditions, it important to take preventative steps.

“As we have seen with the recent events in Melbourne any serious asthma attack can be life-threatening and have tragic consequences.

“Act quickly if you start to have symptoms such as shortness of breath or wheezing.

“The best way to treat thunderstorm asthma is to avoid it happening by making sure your asthma is under control and following your written asthma action plan. If you haven’t previously had a diagnosis of asthma and are experiencing regular symptoms, book in to have a review with your doctor. You may benefit from preventer medication and having an action plan for emergencies.”

National Asthma Council Australia issued the following advice for thunderstorm asthma:

What to do if a thunderstorm is forecast

  • Always carry your blue reliever puffer with you 
  • 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.

'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. 

In Australia, one in 10 adults and children have asthma. Around 4 out of 5 people with asthma also have allergies, such as pollen-related hay fever.

For more information, visit the National Asthma Council Australia website

Media enquiries

For further information, or to arrange an interview with a National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, please contact:

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