Hay fever and asthma sufferers warned of thunderstorm asthma - Institute for Respiratory Health

Hay fever and asthma sufferers warned of thunderstorm asthma

Monday, October 04, 2021 | News, Uncategorised

Thunderstorm asthma season has arrived and comes with a warning for those living with asthma or allergies. 

The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting heavy spring rainfall for much of the country, which not only encourages grasses, weeds and trees to grow but also increases their pollen production. This weather pattern also increases the risk of thunderstorm asthma events.

This type of asthma can occur quickly and affect a large number of individuals in the vicinity of a thunderstorm to the point of swamping medical care facilities.

During thunderstorm activity, intact pollen is drawn up into the clouds where the increased humidity in the air and electrostatic events cause pollen grains to eject very small, sub-pollen particles containing allergens which then fall to the ground.

When a grass pollen allergic individual breathes them in, their small size enables them to enter the lungs in contrast to whole pollen, which would normally become trapped in the nose causing hay fever rather than asthma. Once in the lungs, asthma symptoms may occur.

Who is at risk of thunderstorm asthma?

Thunderstorm asthma can affect people of any age, but you’re more likely to be affected if you suffer from seasonal hay fever, particularly to ryegrass pollen or suffer from asthma known to be induced by pollens.

What are the symptoms of thunderstorm asthma?

If you are susceptible, a thunderstorm might trigger one or more of these symptoms:

  • shortness of breath
  • tightness in your chest
  • wheezing when you breathe
  • persistent coughing.

Emeritus Professor Geoff Stewart, Director of the Institute for Respiratory Health, said “The incidence of thunderstorm asthma has the potential to increase with increasing pollution levels as well as changes in weather patterns although they’re currently rare events.

“Nonetheless, it is sensible to keep track of the daily grass pollen counts during spring and early summer in conjunction with monitoring local weather patterns using online sites such as ‘Allergy Tracker’ on the weather.com site which rates pollen exposure levels as low though to very high.

“If thunderstorms are likely, it makes sense to ensure you manage your hay fever symptoms as well as keeping your asthma reliever medication at hand if prescribed and stay inside with windows and doors closed if possible.

“If you do not normally suffer from asthma but you are known to be allergic to pollen, you should seek immediate medical treatment if your breathing becomes difficult or you experience any of the symptoms described above.”