Last November in Victoria, an unprecedented number of people presented to hospitals and medical centres suffering from acute respiratory distress after a weather phenomenon sparked a thunderstorm asthma event larger than Australia had ever seen. Eight people died and emergency services where overwhelmed with calls for help.
It affected all types of people, those with diagnosed but poorly managed asthma, undiagnosed asthma, seasonal hayfever and/or allergies to grass pollens were the worst affected.
Although it does not happen every year, the events that unfolded in 2016 were a powerful reminder that it is best to be over prepared than under prepared.
So what should we do to prepare ourselves?
- If you have known asthma ensure you have an asthma action plan in place. Be sure you know how and when to take your preventer medications and that you have a valid prescription (including a repeat) at all times. Be vigilant in taking your medication every day and if you are sensitive to grass pollens, keep track of pollen counts via your State pollen count website and the Bureau of Meteorology website.
- If you suffer from seasonal hayfever, even mildly, consider speaking with your Doctor about a preventer medication for the Spring months. Some Doctors may recommend using anti-histamine medications daily (as a preventative measure) even if you are not currently symptomatic.
- If you ever suffer from wheezing, shortness of breath, exercise or cold-induced respiratory symptoms, speak to your Doctor as you may have undiagnosed asthma. They can refer your for lung function testing and provide you with the best advice to avoid an acute onset.
- Try to stay inside with windows and doors closed during thunderstorms between October and December.
- Seek medical attention quickly if your preventer medication is not providing you with symptom relief.
Most medical centres have received a wealth of emergency-preparedness resources and can provide you with useful advice. There is often little to no warning before these events, so it is best to know what to do in advance.