As we have found with the recent deaths in Australia in the news from “thunderstorm asthma” it is important to remember that storms can trigger your patient’s asthma and allergies that could, in severe situations, kill a patient.
Asthma and thunderstorms
Thunderstorm asthma is a potentially dangerous mix of pollens, weather conditions and rain that can trigger severe asthma symptoms. People residing in metropolitan, regional and rural areas can be affected.
How does a thunderstorm cause asthma symptoms?
Thunderstorms cause a rapid increase in the number of triggers in the air such as pollens, mold and dust and changes in humidity and temperature. Breathing this air in can irritate the lining of the airway causing swelling and extra mucus to be produced. This causes the airway to narrow and triggers an asthma flare-up. These flare-ups may become severe very quickly.
Do you have to be allergic to pollens or grasses to experience thunderstorm asthma?
Thunderstorm asthma can affect anyone. In fact, during very severe storms, some people who have never been diagnosed with asthma may experience breathing difficulties.
If you have asthma, be alert to the potential dangers of thunderstorm asthma.
What do you do if a thunderstorm is in the forecast?
Always carry your emergency inhaler
- This is your emergency asthma first aid medication
- This will provide relief from asthma symptoms within minutes by relaxing the muscles around the airways
- Ideally use this with a spacer
Know the signs of worsening asthma and the asthma first aid steps
- If you start developing any signs of asthma, get your reliever and follow the asthma first aid steps
- If at any point, you are concerned your asthma is rapidly worsening, please call 911 and say you are having an asthma attack.
- If you know you are sensitive to pollen, you may wish to stay inside on high pollen and windy days, and during and after a thunderstorm. However, this may not always help and you must remain alert to the signs your asthma is worsening.