Asthma Managment

All Practices, Head Office

Asthma Action Plan & Preparing for Thunderstorm Asthma.

What is asthma?

Close to 11% of Australians are living with asthma. The condition affects the airways of people with asthma when exposed to triggers, causing difficulty breathing or other symptoms of coughing, breathlessness, tightness in the chest or wheezing.[1]

An asthma flare-up is when the symptoms of asthma are more severe than usual, this is known as an asthma attack and is often described as though you are trying to breathe through a straw. When a serious or severe asthma flare-up occurs, the patient requires urgent medical attention from a doctor or the emergency department, even if the person usually has mild or well-controlled symptoms.[2]

Asthma Management – Asthma Action Plan

Take no risks and have a plan in place! In 2017-2018, asthma was the source of almost 39,000 hospitalisations, and in 2016, over 70,000 cases were in the Emergency Department.[3] It is essential you have an up-to-date Action Plan that your doctor has written in consultation with you, so you can follow the instructions when the time comes. Importantly, you then communicate the plan to your family and support network as a course of action for when your symptoms get worse or you have an asthma attack.

How often should I review my Asthma Action Plan?[4]

  • Adults – every 12 months
  • Children – every 6 months
  • Pregnant women – as soon as you find out you are pregnant[5]
  • If you are experiencing any ongoing symptoms of wheezing, cough or shortness of breath, you would also benefit from an Asthma Action Plan as it may represent inadequate asthma control

Thunderstorm asthma

As gloomy as the term sounds, thunderstorm asthma describes the (often in) springtime combination of airborne ryegrass pollen combined with hot, windy, dry and stormy weather conditions. For people with asthma who are allergic to ryegrass pollen, inhaling the small pollen particles can trigger an asthma attack. Preventative asthma medication is the more common method of controlling asthma through these events and seasons, as opposed to simply managing symptoms.[6]

Who can get thunderstorm asthma?

It should be known that people who suffer hay fever symptoms from spring pollens can get thunderstorm asthma even if they have never had asthma before. In Victoria in 2016, the combination of thunderstorms and pollen caused an asthma disaster. Thousands of people had sudden asthma attacks and struggled to breathe. The unexpected surge in asthma cases caught the emergency rooms and ambulances off guard as they worked to help all who were suffering.

You can suffer from thunderstorm asthma if you:[7]

  • Have or have ever had asthma
  • Have hay fever in spring
  • If you feel tight in the chest, wheeze, cough or are short of breath during the pollen season – you may suffer from undiagnosed asthma

Ways to stay safe

For people with asthma, it is recommended to continue taking any medications prescribed by their doctor. Medicines can include preventer inhalers for daily use and others for symptomatic relief. Australian research has shown that inhaled corticosteroids help to protect people from severe asthma attacks.

In the pollen / thunderstorm season, more protection is usually required than just the blue / grey puffer, so it is best to speak with your doctor to check your asthma and review your Asthma Action Plan to be ready for Spring.

During the spring / summer months, always carry your reliever inhaler with you and keep up to date with weather forecasts, including pollen counts, so you know what may be blowing your way.

It is advised that before and during storms with wind gusts, people with asthma and pollen allergies get inside, close windows and ensure any air conditioners are switched to recirculating mode.[8]

People with asthma can improve their quality of life by regularly consulting their GP.

The ABS (2021) reported that those living with asthma rated their health more poorly than the rest of the population[9]. If you have asthma or suffer from hay fever symptoms, it is a good idea to speak with your GP to find ways to improve your management of the condition and, ultimately, your quality of life. Your symptoms and needs will change regularly over time, so it is recommended that you work with a GP with whom you have a great relationship and who can get to know your specific health needs.

Find your nearest Qualitas Medical Practice HERE.

[1] https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/asthma

[2] https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/asthma

[3] https://asthma.org.au/about-asthma/understanding-asthma/statistics/

[4] https://asthma.org.au/treatment-diagnosis/live-with-asthma/asthma-action-plan/

[5] https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/asthma-and-pregnancy

[6] https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/living-with-asthma/resources/patients-carers/factsheets/thunderstorm-asthma

[7] https://www.health.vic.gov.au/environmental-health/thunderstorm-asthma-multicultural-resources

[8] https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/living-with-asthma/resources/patients-carers/factsheets/thunderstorm-asthma

[9] https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/asthma/latest-release