Thunderstorm asthma: Be alert but not alarmed on Sunday

The storm that caused Melbourne's thunderstorm asthma. Photo: Twitter

The storm that caused Melbourne's thunderstorm asthma. Photo: Twitter

Ambulance Victoria will increase the number of paramedics and call-taking staff working on Sunday amid heightened concerns about thunderstorm asthma.

The weather bureau is forecasting hot weather, high humidity, possible thunderstorms and a cool change overnight Sunday and into Monday after a hot, humid day.

But the temperatures and winds would be much milder than those experienced during the thunderstorm asthma event 11 days ago.

Eight people died and around 8,500 people were treated for asthma following a thunderstorm and cool change on November 21.

Health authorities were at pains to avoid the term ‘warning’ in the context of thunderstorm asthma, which they continue to insist was a “very rare phenomenon”.

But they wanted people with hayfever, grass allergies or asthma to be aware of the conditions, Ambulance Victoria spokesman Paul Holman said.

“This is really just a way of going out to say we’ve learned some lessons from last week already,” he said.

“We’re out there now preparing, looking at what the risks are and then trying to mitigate those risks.”

Chief Health Officer Professor Charles Guest said it was important people with asthma were aware of their asthma plan and had medication on hand.

“No-one should be alarmed, [but it’s a] good idea to be alert,” he said.

“If people are aware of the conditions keep in touch with their health care provider be it ambulance, nurse practitioner, general practitioner, pharmacist, then all should be well.”

Mr Holman said Ambulance Victoria would be increasing call centre staff, clinicians, operational staff and putting an extra 15 crews on the road.

“We’re really about reassuring the community making sure the community understands what might be a risk now, that wasn’t as apparent before and trying to make sure we’ve got resources to mitigate that risk,” he said.

Thunderstorm asthma event world's worst

People are being advised to carry their inhaler or reliever. Photo: Getty.

‘Worrying’ survey results

Early data from an online Asthma Australia survey found four in 10 people who experienced asthma symptoms did not have a previous diagnosis of asthma.

More than 90 per cent of respondents who experienced symptoms did have hayfever, according to a snapshot of the first 2,000 responses.

Asthma affects one in nine Australians and 80 per cent of people with asthma also experience hayfever.

Michele Goldman the CEO of Asthma Australia said the “worrying” results showed Australians needed more education about asthma.

“Asthma can be life-threatening,” she said.

“Not only is good management essential for people diagnosed with asthma, such as taking preventer medication as prescribed, but it is also vital that everyone is aware of asthma — how to spot the symptoms and what to do in an asthma emergency.”

Only 29 per cent of the people prescribed with preventer medication took it every day.

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