Last November a thunderstorm caused an unprecedented thunderstorm asthma event in Melbourne and Geelong. Nine people died and more than 8,500 attended emergency departments.
The Victorian Government has allocated $15.56 million in the 2017-18 state budget to ensure Victorians are ready for any future thunderstorm asthma event. Recommendations to be adopted include increased monitoring of pollen data; the development of a public alert system similar to those used in floods and fires; emergency management training for health professionals; and education campaigns to help communities prepare for and respond to thunderstorm asthma.
“Thunderstorm asthma is a combination of pollen and weather conditions that can trigger severe asthma symptoms. It more commonly happens when a storm strikes on a hot and windy day during pollen season when there are high levels of pollen in the air,” explained Juana Ford, Respiratory Nurse at Gippsland Lakes Community Health (GLCH).
Affecting people living in metropolitan, regional or rural areas, thunderstorm asthma happens when pollen granules rupture from moisture in the air. They break up into hundreds of tiny particles that find their way deep inside the lungs making breathing difficult and can trigger a serious asthma attack.
Breathing problems can also be experienced by people with significant hay fever,” Ms Ford added. “People who commonly experience hay fever from pollens during spring are also likely to be affected, even without pre-existing asthma.”
To coincide with National Asthma Week (1-7 September), GLCH will be running two information sessions in Lakes Entrance for any community members who would like to know more about thunderstorm asthma, particularly people at-risk. The sessions aim to provide participants with an overview of thunderstorm asthma; the signs, symptoms and triggers; GP asthma action plans; and some of the steps you can take to look after you and your family members if pollen levels are high or extreme in your area.
Click HERE to view flyer with sessions dates, contacts etc.