12 November 2020

Thunderstorm and pollen combination sparks rare health warning

| Kim Treasure
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Elevated pollen levels and the possibility of severe thunderstorms are increasing the risk of thunderstorm asthma. Photo: Brook Buchan.

ACT Health has issued a public health alert as environmental conditions align to create the possibility of a rare thunderstorm asthma event over the next two days.

Thunderstorm asthma can be triggered by a combination of high grass pollen levels and a particular type of thunderstorm which causes some people to develop severe asthma symptoms over a short period of time.

Not all thunderstorms produce an asthma event, and thunderstorm asthma is rare.

However the ACT Health Directorate says predicted conditions tomorrow (12 November) and Friday (13 November) have the potential to create such an event, with elevated pollen levels and the possibility of severe thunderstorms increasing the risk.

READ ALSO Ryegrass is public enemy number one as pollen levels hit new high

People who suffer from hayfever and/or asthma are encouraged to be vigilant over the next two days for any worsening of their condition. Where possible, people should avoid being outside during a thunderstorm – especially in the wind gusts that come before the storm.

Sufferers should go inside and close their doors and windows. If they have air conditioning, turn it on to recirculate air.

ACT Health says Canberrans who suffer from asthma and hayfever should see their doctor or pharmacist to make sure their treatment and action plans are up-to-date during the pollen season.

If you develop asthma symptoms, follow your asthma action plan. If you experience asthma symptoms that are not relieved by your usual asthma treatment, you should seek further urgent medical advice. In the event of a medical emergency, you should call 000.

A useful resource to help Canberrans monitor pollen levels is the free AirRater Smartphone app, which provides users with real-time information on air quality. Download the free AirRater smartphone application here.

For more information on managing asthma and hay fever:

For daily levels of grass pollen in the ACT visit the Canberra Pollen Count and Forecast Service.

For further information on current air quality in the ACT visit the ACT Health website.

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