Mohamed Barre had undiagnosed asthma and a history of hay fever. He experienced an asthma attack for the first time during the epidemic thunderstorm asthma event of 21 November 2016.
Mohamed was in his local park on 21 November 2016, enjoying playtime with his three children, when he started to feel unwell. He was breathless, but at first put it down to the physical activity. Mohamed was 35 and in good health. He told his eldest son and they decided to go home. After the short walk home, Mohamed was still short of breath and felt dizzy, but he wasn’t sure what to do.
Mohamed and his family lived fairly close to a hospital, so he asked his sister-in-law to drive him there, rather than call an ambulance.
When he arrived at the hospital, he quickly realised something big was going on. The emergency room was inundated with other people seeking medical attention. (Hospitals across Victoria were experiencing the same kind of high demand.)
The treating nurse who saw Mohamed told him that the thunderstorm had caused many people to experience asthma symptoms at the same time. He was given reliever medication and was shown the four steps of asthma first aid.
'I felt relieved, my lungs were no longer wheezing and I wasn’t coughing anymore,' Mohamed said.
The treating nurse told Mohamed to follow up with his GP, who confirmed that he had asthma. Mohamed now carries his reliever medication with him at all times, and also has one in the car.
Since the 2016 event, Mohamed has taken a strong interest in respiratory health and is keen to share this knowledge with his family and community. He learnt the asthma first aid steps, and also taught his eldest son so that he could help out if Mohamed or anyone else was having an asthma attack.
'I decided to do my own awareness of asthma and thunderstorm asthma and I started sharing this information with my entire community.
'Whenever I attend public or community gatherings I always talk about it and share with the people.
'I feel better now because my asthma plan is under control and I have the knowledge to know what to do about it.'
Watch the video of Mohamed's story.
Managing asthma and hay fever matters
Protect yourself this pollen season
Thunderstorm asthma can affect those with asthma or hay fever - especially people who experience wheezing or coughing with their hay fever. That’s why it’s important for people with asthma or hay fever to know about thunderstorm asthma and what they can do to protect themselves during grass pollen season.
For people with asthma or hay fever, where possible avoid being outside during thunderstorms from October through December – especially in the wind gusts that come before the storm. Go inside and close your doors and windows. If you have your air conditioning on, turn it to recirculate.
Having good control of your asthma or hay fever can reduce your risk from thunderstorm asthma. If you’ve ever had asthma or hay fever, talk to your GP about what you can do to protect yourself.
If you develop asthma symptoms, follow the four steps of asthma first aid and make sure you follow up with your GP. The most common symptoms of asthma are wheezing, shortness of breath, continuing coughing and a tight feeling in the chest.
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