Grass pollen season brings a seasonal increase in asthma and hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis). It also brings the chance of epidemic thunderstorm asthma. Thunderstorm asthma can affect those with asthma or seasonal hay fever. Having both asthma and seasonal hay fever and poorly managed asthma increases the risk further.
The best way that those at risk can protect themselves is to have good control of their asthma and hay fever by having an up-to-date asthma action plan or hay fever treatment plan, learning asthma first aid and avoiding storms during the grass pollen season, including the wind gusts that precede them.
In addition, the National Asthma Council has recently updated the Australian Asthma Handbook with recommendations that offer new alternative treatment options for Victorians with mild asthma. All those with asthma, and particularly those with mild asthma, should see their GP to develop or review their asthma action plan and make sure any associated hay fever is well managed.
More than ever before, this year it is important to manage any hay fever or asthma symptoms, as these conditions can produce symptoms that are similar to coronavirus (COVID-19) such as a runny nose, cough or shortness of breath. While good management can help prevent these, it is critical to get tested for coronavirus if these are different to your usual symptoms.
People with asthma and hay fever symptoms may also touch their face more frequently, increasing their risk of being infected or transmitting coronavirus if they are not practicing appropriate hand hygiene.
Wearing a face mask, maintaining at least 1.5 metres of physical distance between yourself and others and practicing good hand and respiratory hygiene remains critical as people who are sneezing and coughing from their hay fever or asthma may produce more droplets and if they have coronavirus, may be more likely to spread it to others.
The epidemic thunderstorm asthma public health campaign aims to ensure that all Victorians and in particular people with asthma and/or hay fever, are as prepared as they can be should another epidemic thunderstorm asthma event occur. The following link may be useful to sufferers and the general community.
If you have further questions on thunderstorm asthma, please call the department’s Environmental Health Unit on 1300 761 874 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
EPIDEMIC THUNDERSTORM ASTHMA TEAM
Climate and Health Team, Environmental Health Policy and Risk Management Unit
Health Protection Branch | Regulation, Health Protection and Emergency Management
Department of Health & Human Services