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Thunderstorm Asthma

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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Martin Fox, MBBS, FRACGP, DRCOG on September 8, 2024

General Practice News

On Monday the 21st of November 2016, Victoria experienced the world’s largest epidemic of thunderstorm asthma. Severe storm activity led to thousands of people suddenly experiencing asthma attacks and difficulty breathing.

Thunderstorm asthma can happen suddenly to anyone, anywhere. Typically it occurs during the spring and summer when there is a large amount of pollen in the air during a particularly windy or stormy day. 

People who suffer from asthma or seasonal hay fever are more likely to suffer from it, but it can be experienced by anyone. The risk is highest during the October to December period. 

Those experiencing thunderstorm asthma may have any of the common asthma symptoms including cough, wheeze, breathlessness or a tight feeling in the chest. However, asthma symptoms can be different for everyone. If you experience symptoms of seasonal hay fever (runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing and itchy eyes) you should also be wary of experiencing an asthma attack due to thunderstorm asthma. 

If you have asthma and/or seasonal hay fever, you will need extra protection to minimise your risk. It is recommended to always have a reliever inhaler such as Ventolin or Symbicort on standby.

It is also important to keep up to date with pollen counts and thunderstorm weather forecasts during spring and early summer and to stay indoors if possible on those days to minimise exposure.