Climate change it has caused the melting of icebergs, floods and landslides. It can also cause a increase in pollen levels, prolong the length of the pollen season, and cause more pollen-related health problems.
During pollen season, people with asthma are at higher risk of having an outbreak.
What is storm asthma?
Electric storms cause a drop in temperature and a sudden increase in humidity. East may cause Whole grass pollen grains break into particles that are small enough to penetrate deeper into the lungs, causing thunderstorm asthma.
Because of this, many people, even those with no known asthma, can be affected.
The largest thunderstorm asthma event occurred in Melbourne during the 2016 grass pollen season; Some 10,000 people were affected and hospital emergency services had excess capacity due to at least 3,000 airway-related cases. Sadly, ten people also died of asthma that night.
Who is at risk for thunderstorm asthma?
Even people with no history of asthma are at risk for thunderstorm asthma. However, research has shown that some people may be more susceptible to pollen than others. This includes:
In our research, we found people with coexisting allergic conditions (such as asthma and hay fever) are more affected by pollen compared to those with single allergic conditions (such as asthma only).
How else can pollen cause harm?
Even outside of thunderstorms, pollen alone can cause asthma attacks requiring hospitalizations, respiratory symptoms such as wheezing and runny nose, and reduced lung function, making it difficult to breathe.
Our yet-to-be-published research has shown that grass pollen can trigger a general state of heightened immune responses, leading to an increased risk of eczema flare-ups in children.
Other studies have indicated that children with eczema experience more symptoms, such as greater intensity of itching and rash on days with high levels of grass pollen.
How can you prepare?
So what can you do to prepare for grass pollen season and the threat of thunderstorm asthma?
- Download your state’s emergency services app, such as the Victorian Emergency app, which can provide asthma alerts for thunderstorms
- Keep an eye on pollen counts (see below for helpful websites)
- Keep doors and windows closed on high pollen days
- Use air purifiers
- Stay indoors during high pollen counts or thunderstorm asthma alerts
- Plant hypoallergenic flowers if you have a garden.
- Keep wearing a face mask. More expensive have been shown to be very effective in reducing the risk of COVID-19 pollen-induced infection and respiratory symptoms
- Take asthma medications. Reliever medications are available without a prescription. Preventive medications offer much stronger protection, but require a prescription from a doctor. They should also be used preventively in the setting of pollen-induced asthma or severe hay fever, to prevent thunderstorm asthma.
- Take antihistamines like Zyrtec, which can be used as needed or more regularly during pollen season. However, it does not treat or prevent asthma.
If you know you have asthma, hay fever, or pollen allergies, you are at risk for thunderstorm asthma. In addition to taking advantage of warning systems and staying out of the storm, you should see your doctor and keep an asthma inhaler on hand during pollen season to stay safe. Your doctor can advise you on the correct treatment.
Research, including our own, has shown that exposure to pollen can have a Delayed effect in the lungs and airways. This means that asthma attacks or respiratory symptoms can sometimes occur a few days after exposure. So if you forget to take your medicine preventively, it’s not too late. However, go to a hospital if it becomes serious.