Better Health Channel

Thunderstorm asthma

What is thunderstorm asthma?

During grass pollen season (1 October through to the end of December) people may notice an increase in asthma and hay fever. It also brings the chance of thunderstorm asthma.

Thunderstorm asthma is thought to be triggered by a unique combination of high amounts of grass pollen in the air and a certain type of thunderstorm. For people who have asthma or hay fever this can trigger severe asthma symptoms.

When a large number of people develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time, related to high grass pollen and a certain type of thunderstorm, it is known as Epidemic thunderstorm asthma.

The Thunderstorm asthma overview video is available in the following languages:

አማርኛ (Amharic)External Link | ܐܵܬܘܿܪܵܝܵܐ ܟܲܠܕܵܝܵܐ (Assyrian)External Link | မြန်မာ (Burmese)External Link | Thuɔŋjäŋ (Dinka)External Link | ગુજરાતી (Gujarati)External Link | ကညီကျိ (Karen)External Link | ខ្មែរ (Khmer)External Link

Who is at risk of thunderstorm asthma?

If you have current, past or undiagnosed asthma or seasonal hay fever you are at risk of thunderstorm asthma. So be prepared to manage any symptoms and stay out of hospital.

Even if you don't think you have asthma or hay fever, don't ignore symptoms like wheezing or shortness of breath – check with your GP.

Protect yourself this pollen season

Know asthma first aid

It’s important for everyone in the community to know the asthma first aid.

One of the most common reliever medications in Australia is salbutamol, often known as your ‘blue/grey pufferExternal Link ’. These are available over the counter from a chemist. Bricanyl Turbuhaler (terbutaline 500 mcg) is a different blue reliever medication available over the counter.

If you are not sure if someone is having an asthma attack, you can still use a blue/grey reliever medication because it is unlikely to cause harm.

Note: The first aid steps in this video refer to the blue/grey reliever puffer. See other asthma first aid instructionsExternal Link if the person uses a different reliever medication.

Call triple zero (000) immediately if:

  • the person is not breathing
  • their asthma suddenly becomes worse or is not improving
  • the person is having an asthma attack and there’s no reliever medication available
  • the person is unsure if it is asthma
  • the person is known to have anaphylaxis. If this is the case, always give adrenaline autoinjector first, and then reliever, even if there are no skin symptoms.

To access this information in other languages contact the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National)External Link on 131 450 (free call) and ask them to call NURSE-ON-CALL (1300 60 60 24).

If you are d/Deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech/communication impairment contact the National Relay Service (NRS)External Link and ask them to call NURSE-ON-CALL (1300 60 60 24).

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Reviewed on: 05-10-2023