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You Need To Know This: Thunderstorm Asthma

By Rebecca O'Malley November 4, 2018

In partnership with Blooms The Chemist, we’re giving you the 411 on good health. This month: thunderstorm asthma. 

There’s a high chance you know someone who suffers from asthma. In fact, one in nine Australians have asthma and symptoms can begin at any age.  

Symptoms include breathlessness, wheezing, a persistent cough and a whistling sound when breathing. Asthma isn’t something to be ignored. Anyone can be affected by asthma – at any age – and an attack can be fatal, especially if you’re not aware of how to treat your symptoms.  

Environmental conditions can trigger an asthma attack and we should be especially careful when a thunderstorm is forecast, particularly if you suffer from hay fever (particularly seasonal hay fever) or are allergic to grass pollen. 

Larger pollen grains are filtered by hairs in the nose. They’re too big to reach the lungs and trigger symptoms such as itchy eyes and sneezing.  During a thunderstorm, larger pollen grains can absorb moisture and break into smaller fragments which are further dispersed in the wind. One pollen grain can release up to 700 smaller particles. These smaller particles pass through the nose to enter the lungs and can trigger a bout of thunderstorm asthma.

Signs you’re having an asthma attack:

  • You have increasing wheezing, cough, chest tightness or shortness of breath  
  • You are waking often at night with asthma symptoms  
  • You need to use your reliever again within 3 hours

First aid for asthma:

  • Sit the person comfortably upright
  • Give the person four puffs of a blue/grey reliever (use a spacer, if available)
  • Wait four minutes
  • If the person still cannot breathe normally, give them four more puffs of the reliever
  • If symptoms do not improve, call 000.

If you or someone you know has asthma, pop into your local Blooms The Chemist and chat to your pharmacist about asthma management and lung health. They can talk to you about your medications, the right way to use your inhaler, minimising your exposure to potential triggers and any complementary therapies you can explore to better manage your asthma, particularly when a thunderstorm hits. Visit your local Blooms The Chemist for advice on how to manage asthma and improve your lung health. 

Presented in partnership with Blooms The Chemist.