Bass Coast residents are urged to reduce their risk of thunderstorm asthma this spring.
Grass pollen season runs from now until the end of December, increasing the risk of asthma and hay fever, and the possibility of thunderstorm asthma.
Thunderstorm asthma occurs when many people develop asthma symptoms over a short time due to high amounts of grass pollen and a certain type of thunderstorm. This results in grass pollen grains being swept up in the wind and carried for long distances.
Some grains can burst open and release tiny particles that are concentrated in the wind gusts that come just before a thunderstorm. These particles are small enough to be breathed deep into the lungs and can rapidly trigger asthma symptoms, making it difficult to breathe.
Bass Coast Health CEO Jan Child said people who experience thunderstorm asthma should call 000 straight-away for an ambulance.
“Attacks of asthma, and especially thunderstorm asthma, should be taken extremely seriously as prompt medical attention is vital to avoid a potential fatality,” she said.
“Symptoms can become very severe, very quickly and grass pollen can infect many people at the same time. Thunderstorm asthma can affect people who have asthma or hay fever, especially people who experience wheezing or coughing with their hay fever. It’s important they know what they can do to help protect themselves during grass pollen season.”
Victoria is fortunate to have a dedicated forecasting system that operates from 1 October until 31 December, and enables people who have asthma or seasonal hay fever – or who are at risk – to reduce their risk by planning ahead.
The forecasting system gives a three-day forecast showing the risk of this type of event, from low (green), moderate (orange) to high (red) risk for the nine Victorian weather districts. The epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast is available daily through the VicEmergency website (www.emergency.vic.gov.au) and app. People can set up a watch zone to receive advice and warnings for their area. The forecast is also on health.vic.gov.au and the Melbourne Pollen website (www.melbournepollen.com.au) and app.
On high-risk forecast days, people with asthma or spring hay fever can reduce their risk by avoiding storms, especially the wind gusts that come before them. They should go indoors to reduce the chance of exposure, close windows and doors, and turn off air-conditioners bringing air in from outside.