Thunderstorm asthma is a real thing. In Melbourne, almost 200 patients have been rushed to the hospital due to this condition. But what is thunderstorm asthma and what do you do if you have it?
According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology, one out of four people who has allergic rhinitis also has thunderstorm asthma. In addition, while everyone can be affected, children and the elderly are more vulnerable to the said illness.
Respiratory physician Megan Howden adds that even those without existing respiratory conditions can also get thunderstorm asthma. Alarmingly so, she says that “Previous episodes have seen around a 10-fold increase in asthma presentations to emergency.”
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What is Thunderstorm Asthma And How Do You Get It?
Dr Simon Judkins, from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, explains that “Thunderstorm asthma is triggered when there is a sudden change in weather conditions. The movement from a hot a windy day where there is an increased pollen load in the air to an incoming storm front which adds a lot of moisture to the air will see pollens absorb the moisture, and burst. This releases thousands of tiny allergen particles which are then inhaled by people and can trigger asthma attacks.”
Countries such as Melbourne is known to have extreme weather changes and plenty of open fields. “Melbourne, being surrounded by parks and bushland, combined with the well-recognised Melbourne ‘four seasons in one day’ weather patterns is particularly set up for this scenario,” Judkins add.
This is why it came as little surprise when just recently when 200 patients were rushed to the hospital and 2000 more seeking help via triple-o hotlines. This happened after a change in the weather.
Thunderstorm asthma, according to Judkins, feels like there is a tightening in the chest area similar to an allergic reaction swelling. It becomes very difficult for the sufferer to breathe.
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What to Do When Experiencing A Thunderstorm Asthma Episode?
If you already have asthma, treatment is similar. However, for first timers, it is still best to get help immediately. However, for those who cannot, the first line of therapy is a Ventolin spray followed by certain steroid medications.
It is most encourage, though not to treat it on your own. If your general practitioner is unavailable, it is best to visit the nearest hospital or emergency room. Judkins adds that it is also best to prevent it from occurring by keeping yourself safe from pollen.