A mix of high pollen counts and the beginning of thunderstorm season could be a deadly combination, health professionals have warned.
Australia is one of the world’s more allergy-prone countries, with an estimated one in five people suffering from hay fever, and increasingly high rates of asthma.
The start of thunderstorm season in Australia adds an extra layer of concern due to risks of increased danger for allergy and asthma sufferers.
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“Thunderstorm asthma can be life threatening, but being prepared can save your life.” Credit: AAP
With Australia’s storm season already kicking off and pollen numbers on the rise, experts are warning people to be prepared.
“Thunderstorm asthma can be life-threatening, but being prepared can save your life,” GP Sarah Cavanagh, from telehealth service InstantScripts, told 7NEWS.com.au.
What is thunderstorm asthma?
“Thunderstorm asthma is triggered by massive loads of small pollen particles being released into the air with fast changes in wind and temperature.
“When it rains or is humid, pollen grains can absorb moisture and burst open, releasing hundreds of tiny pollen particles that can enter the lungs, resulting in sudden, often dangerous asthma attacks in those with pollen allergies.
“It can cause asthma attacks in vulnerable people.”
On November 21, 2016, Melbourne experienced the world’s largest thunderstorm asthma event.
It resulted in 10 deaths and thousands of people developing breathing difficulties in a short period of time.
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The Victorian government last year launched a thunderstorm asthma monitoring and prediction alert system.
The alert system runs from the start of October until the end of December, the worst months for pollen and hay fever, with forecasts monitoring pollen counts three days out.
Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said last year the forecasting system would “help ensure people … take the right actions to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
Medical professionals advise some of the best ways to stay prepared and keep safe include keeping an eye on the pollen count in your area with a pollen app, as well as spring-cleaning your house and keeping the windows closed on high pollen days.
“Speak to your doctor about antihistamines, preventative nasal sprays, and asthma inhalers,” Cavanagh said.
“Make sure you have your medications at hand and that haven’t expired, and that you know exactly how to use them. In an emergency, always call triple-0.”
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