After the horrific events of the 2016 thunderstorm asthma attack in Melbourne, it is more important then ever for asthma and allergy suffers to be vigilant about preventing an attack in the future. Here are some things you should know about a thunderstorm asthma and some quick tips about what you can do to make sure you are always prepared:
What is and what causes a thunderstorm asthma?
Thunderstorm asthma itself is the perfect storm. Research suggests that thunderstorm asthma is mostly triggered by an exceptional type of thunderstorm that causes grass pollen grains to be swept up into the clouds as the storm forms. When the grass pollen absorb moisture, they burst open and release large amounts of smaller allergen particles. One pollen grain can release up to 700 of these smaller particles. These particles are so small that they can be breathed deeply into the lungs triggering swelling and narrowing in the small airways in the lung. The storm then carries these particles down to ground level, creating an atmosphere full of potential asthma triggers.
Who is affected by a thunderstorm asthma?
Despite being called an asthma storm, anyone can be affected, even if you don’t have a history of asthma. People with hay fever and pollen allergies are also at risk of allergic reactions that can cause their airways to contract. This is due to the mass quantities of allergenic particles from pollen and especially grass particles that are swept up and can therefore reach deep into the lungs if inhaled.
How to prepare for thunderstorm asthma.
We may not be able to predict the next thunderstorm asthma, but there are a number of things you can do to prepare.
- Make sure your asthma action plan is up to date: If your asthma is triggered by pollens, and is worse in the spring and summer when hay fever is active, make sure you have your action plan regularly reviewed, so that in the case of worsening symptoms, you can take early and immediate action to prevent or reduce the severity of an asthma attack.
- Prevention is better then control: If your asthma is poorly controlled you will be more at risk of an asthma attack. Make sure you are using your preventer medication regularly, as directed by your doctor. Regular salt therapy is also a great prevention therapy to help keep your airways clear and cleansed of pollen and pollutants that may trigger asthma and hay fever.
- Follow the pollen count. Make sure you stay informed of the daily weather and pollen count. Following the pollen counts will help you be prepared and avoid exposure as much as possible.
- Stay inside. Around the time of thunderstorms, and on windy and high-pollen count days, limit your exposure by staying inside with the windows and doors shut.
Remember to always carry your reliever medication with you, even when you’re feeling well and if you have difficulty breathing, call an ambulance immediately.