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    Victoria is issued a health warning about ‘thunderstorm asthma’ – four years after a deadly storm

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    • The freak weather events are triggered by high pollen levels and strong winds
    • Ten people died during or soon after a thunderstorm asthma event in 2016 
    • Asthmatics and hay fever suffers should stay indoors during high-risk storms

    Victorians might be spending less time outside due to COVID-19 restrictions but health authorities are still urging residents to be wary of deadly thunderstorm asthma.

    Ten people died during or soon after a thunderstorm asthma event in Melbourne on November 21, 2016.

    Victoria’s deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng warned about the freak storm, which prompted an inquest, in a message to the public on Thursday.

    A combination of high pollen levels and strong winds can trigger the phenomenon.

    Victorian health authorities have issued a warning for residents to we wary of thunderstorm asthma events in months to come – four years after a storm in Melbourne (pictured) killed ten people

    November is usually the peak period for the asthma event, but Dr Cheng said it could take place any time from October to December.

    The Bureau of Meteorology confirmed a La Nina over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, meaning Australia is likely to have a rainy spring and summer.

    There is the possibility of flooding and more severe tropical cyclones than usual.

    ‘This is likely to mean that it is somewhat of a high risk of thunderstorms, although the pollen forecast at this stage is only that it is probably going to be moderate,’ Dr Cheng told reporters.

    Current, former or undiagnosed asthmatics and hay fever sufferers should stay indoors when high-risk epidemic thunderstorm asthma events happen, or they should have good control of their condition.

    People pictured fleeing Melbourne's iconic St Kilda Beach during the deadly weather event on November 21,  2016

    People pictured fleeing Melbourne’s iconic St Kilda Beach during the deadly weather event on November 21,  2016

    ‘If you are in any one of those groups, you should see your GP and make sure that you have an action plan in case something happens,’ Dr Cheng said.

    ‘There have been a lot of changes to recommendations about medications over the last year.

    ‘Even if you have seen your GP, but haven’t seen them for a little while, it may be worth going back to make sure the medication you are on is appropriate.’

    Dr Cheng said concerned Victorians could check pollen count meters on the VicEmergency app and University of Melbourne website.

    He assured the community that systems were ready to issue high pollen warnings and monitor hospital admissions for signs of epidemic thunderstorm asthma.

    WHAT IS ‘THUNDERSTORM ASTHMA’? 

    • ‘Thunderstorm asthma’ is caused when a large storms sweeps pollen and irritants into the atmosphere.
    • The irritants cause asthma sufferers to have an attack.  
    • Rain and humidity can also stir irritants that affect asthma. 

    SOURCE:  Allergy Society Australia

     

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