Media Releases

Be prepared for thunderstorm asthma

7 Sep 2017

The National Asthma Council today launched a suite of resources on thunderstorm asthma to prepare healthcare professionals and their practices for the upcoming grass pollen season. 

Written for GPs, practice nurses and pharmacists, the new resources include an information paper on the causes, prevention and treatment of thunderstorm asthma and a refreshed information paper on managing allergic rhinitis in people with asthma. 

Professor Amanda Barnard, General Practitioner and the Chair of the National Asthma Council Australia’s Guidelines Committee, said the new resources are aimed at increasing healthcare professionals’ understanding of the phenomena of thunderstorm asthma and applying evidence-based best practice of asthma and allergic rhinitis to general practice.

Supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and guided by an expert working group, the thunderstorm asthma information paper includes learnings from last year’s thunderstorm asthma event in Melbourne and calls for immediate and preventative treatment for patients with asthma and/or allergic rhinitis.

In addition, the National Asthma Council is offering free workshops, a webinar series and online learning modules to upskill healthcare professionals and prepare their patients and practices for thunderstorm asthma season. 

“The risk of thunderstorm asthma is highest in adults who are sensitised to ryegrass pollen, have allergic rhinitis (with or without known asthma), and are not taking an inhaled corticosteroid asthma preventer. The worst outcomes are seen in people with poorly controlled asthma,” said Professor Barnard.

Professor Barnard said that in primary care, prevention of asthma triggered by thunderstorms is based on: 

  • year-round asthma control, including regular inhaled corticosteroid-containing preventers where indicated (applies to most adults with asthma) 
  • preventative treatment for people who are allergic to grass pollens but are not already taking regular medication: intranasal corticosteroids for people with allergic rhinitis and inhaled corticosteroids for people with asthma, ideally starting 6 weeks before exposure to springtime high pollen concentrations, and continuing throughout the grass pollen season (1 September–31 December).
  • advice for at-risk patients to avoid being outdoors just before and during thunderstorms in spring and early summer – especially during cold wind gusts that precede the rain front.

Professor Barnard urged healthcare professionals to ensure their patients are prepared, by initiating preventative medications as appropriate and providing an up-to-date written asthma action plan before the start of pollen season across south east Australia on October 1.

“There is also a need for patients to better understand their risks and how to protect themselves and others, including how to apply asthma first aid.”

The thunderstorm asthma information paper was developed by an expert working group, including Professor Amanda Barnard.

The webinar series were developed in partnership with the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association, and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, whereas the online learning modules were a collaboration with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. 

Development of the updated information paper on managing allergic rhinitis in people with asthma was supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Seqirus. The National Asthma Council Australia retained editorial control over all resources.

All the resources are available at the National Asthma Council Australia website

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. 


Thunderstorm asthma information paper for health professionals 

Thunderstorm asthma flowchart for pharmacists

Managing allergic rhinitis in people with asthma

Media enquiries

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

Lelde McCoy, the Reputation Group
Tel: 03 9645 7755 Mob: 0417 362 768
Email: [email protected]