Warnings Raised For Thunderstorm Asthma

17:29' 11-09-2017
The State Government has launched a new public health information and education campaign to prepare Victorians for the possibility of thunderstorm asthma during the upcoming pollen season.

    Spring is here and health experts are urging people with asthma to be prepared.

    Photo: smh.com.au

    Funding for the campaign is part of a $15 million package to better predict and respond to large-scale emergencies such as thunderstorm asthma. The campaign is timely, as the shift to warmer weather increases pollen in the air, leading to a heightened asthma risk.

    People with asthma or hay fever are particularly vulnerable to thunderstorm asthma events. Nine people died and many fell seriously ill from asthma caused by thunderstorms in Victoria last November. Hospital and emergency services said they had never experienced such rapid-onset demand in such a condensed time period, and across such a large area.

    Stormy winds and moist air caused large grass pollen to break into very tiny pieces, small enough to be inhaled. The winds concentrated these particles at ground level, where they easily entered the airways of some people's lungs and caused an acute asthma attack. In a three-hour period there were 2,000 emergency calls for ambulances.

    In addition to the awareness campaign, the Government is also providing new training for GPs, pharmacists and nurses, and is partnering with the Bureau of Meteorology to develop a new thunderstorm asthma forecasting system. The system, one of the first in the world, will be operational by October when pollen season starts, and will run through to the end of December.

    Further work is also underway to improve health emergency response arrangements, real-time monitoring of emergency department presentations and public information and warnings systems.

    “We want everyone to be protected during thunderstorm asthma events this pollen season,” said Minister for Health Jill Hennessy at the campaign launch. “People with asthma should ensure their asthma plan is up to date and they carry their medication with them at all times.”

    Victorians who suffer from asthma should also ensure the medication they need is at hand, and speak to their GP, or a pharmacist, about what they can do to protect themselves.

    Marcia G

     

     

     

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Keywords: pollen seasonstate governmentthunderstorm asthma

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