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

Thunderstorm asthma is thought to be triggered by a unique combination of high pollen levels and a certain type of thunderstorm, causing a large number of people to develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time.

People with asthma or hay fever – especially people who experience wheezing or coughing with their hay fever – can be affected by Thunderstorm Asthma.

Even if you don't think you have asthma or hay fever, never ignore symptoms such as shortness of breath – check with your GP.

You can check online for the Thunderstorm Asthma forecast.

Call 000 if you are in distress

 Call 000 if you or someone you are with:

  • finds it very difficult to breathe (gasping for air)
  • are unable to speak comfortably or if their lips are turning blue
  • has symptoms that get worse very quickly
  • are getting little or no relief from their reliever inhaler.

How to protect yourself

All people at increased risk of thunderstorm asthma should:

  • avoid being outside during thunderstorms from October to December – especially in the wind gusts that come before the storm. Go inside and close your doors and windows, and if you have your air conditioner on, turn it to recirculate the air.
  • have an asthma action plan – talk to your GP, and know the four steps of asthma first aid (download chart here)
  • have your reliever medication appropriately available in grass pollen season and be aware of how to use it (ideally with a spacer)
  • if you have a smart phone, you could download the Vic Emergency app and set up a 'watch zone' for your location to make sure you're notified before an epidemic thunderstorm asthma event occurs

If you have hay fever, understand that you are at increased risk of asthma. If you think you may have symptoms of asthma then talk to your GP.

If you have hay fever only, see your GP or pharmacist about a hay fever treatment plan and what you can do to help protect yourself from the risk of thunderstorm asthma. This may include having an asthma reliever puffer – these are available from pharmacies without a prescription.

Where to get help

  • In an emergency, always call 000
  • Emergency department of your nearest hospital
  • Your GP
  • Your nearest pharmacy (for medication)
  • Nurse-On-Call: Phone 1300 60 60 24 – for expert health information and advice at all hours
  • National Home Doctor Service: Phone 13 SICK (13 7425) for after-hours home GP visits (bulked billed)
  • Asthma Australia Helpline: Phone 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462)

For more information, visit Better Health Channel/Thunderstorm Asthma.