2 Oct 2020

Thunderstorm asthma season is rolling in

Monash clinical immunologists at Eastern Health and Alfred Health
warn of potential thunderstorm asthma risks. Image: Shutterstock

It's thunderstorm asthma season again, and  Monash researchers have just published a review on epidemic thunderstorm asthma (ETSA). 

Professor Frank Thien is first author and Professor Robyn O'Hehir is the senior author on the review. They write, "Epidemic thunderstorm asthma (ETSA) is due to a complex interaction of environmental and individual susceptibility factors, with outbreaks reported globally over the last four decades. Australia has been particularly susceptible with nearly half of episodes reported internationally, culminating in the catastrophic Melbourne 2016 event."

Climate change contributes to the creation of unpredictable and extreme weather events, and the authors write, "The role of climate change in increasing risk of ETSA outbreaks requires further research."

Professor Thien has advice on:

  • Reducing the risk of an asthma attack during a thunderstorm asthma event.
  • Managing hay fever to reduce the risk of thunderstorm asthma.
  • Similarities between hay fever symptoms and COVID-19.

Professor Thien said, “People who have hay fever are more predisposed to suffering a thunderstorm asthma attack, so it is important to treat hay fever with antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays. If someone with hay fever experiences breathing difficulties, such as shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing, they should see their GP as they may need to be on preventer inhaler asthma medication during hay fever season.

“For people with diagnosed asthma, it is important to stay indoors on high-risk days of thunderstorm asthma and have an action plan in place. They should also have regular reviews with their GP about their medication and asthma control, and always carry their reliever medication with them and use it as prescribed.

“Some COVID-19 symptoms are similar to hay fever, so if anyone has any concerns about their symptoms they should immediately seek a COVID-19 test.”

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