By Bonny Burrows
Kooweerup Regional Health Service (KRHS) is urging residents to take precautionary measures against thunderstorm asthma this spring.
The health service hosted an Asthma Foundation-run community information session on Wednesday 6 September to inform residents of the dangers of the condition and how it differs from regular asthma.
KRHS manager for community and health promotion Aileen Thoms said it was important for community members to know what they could do for grass pollen season, particularly those most at risk of thunderstorm asthma.
The risk of thunderstorm asthma increases in people who have or have had asthma or have hay fever, especially wheezing and coughing with the hay fever.
Ms Thoms said grass pollen season (spring) brought an increase in asthma and hay fever, and this was particularly dangerous for those at risk of the conditions.
“It also brings the chance of thunderstorm asthma. For people with asthma or hay fever … thunderstorm asthma can be sudden, serious and even life-threatening,” Ms Thoms said.
Last year’s epidemic proved the seriousness of the condition, she said.
The thunderstorm asthma event in November was the largest event of its kind on record globally.
It caught the health community off guard and saw many people hospitalised and nine people die.
“It was a very short but serious epidemic,” Ms Thoms said.
This year, health professionals hope the community will be a little more prepared.
Despite Victoria being at the highest risk of another epidemic due to its dry grass, Ms Thoms said, to a certain extent there were preventative mechanisms you could put in place.
She recommends those at risk carry asthma medications with them at all times, and stressed the importance of the community members knowing the four steps of asthma first aid.
During a thunderstorm event between October through December, the safest option was to remain indoors, she said, especially in the wind gusts that come pre-storm.
“Go inside and close your doors and windows. If you have your air- conditioning on, turn in onto recirculate,” Ms Thoms said.
For more information about thunderstorm asthma and how to protect yourself, visit: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au