With harvest underway and more thunderstorms predicted, Wimmera Health Care Group is urging people with asthma to be prepared.

The health service’s respiratory nurse Heather Macdonald said the recent thunderstorm asthma that had fatal consequences in Melbourne had a less severe impact here.

“Recently we did see a large scale asthma emergency in Melbourne during the thunderstorm and it was fatal to eight people at this time.” Ms Macdonald said.

“As thunderstorms are predicted again over the weekend and the combination of this and harvest stirring up grasses, dust and pollen, we urge people to be prepared and make sure their medication is in date and close by.

“Reliever Inhalers (such as Ventolin and Asmol) can continue to ‘squirt’ sometime after there is no longer medication in them so it is important to have a new one on standby. It is also important to check that your reliever inhaler is still in date. This can be done by removing the metal canister from the device.”

Ms Macdonald said the Wimmera region has the highest percentage of asthma in Australia.

“While we have a large number of people with asthma in the region, what was seen recently in the cases of ‘thunderstorm asthma’ was that it can affect people who have never had asthma symptoms before,” she said.

Anyone who has a past history of asthma, can experience an asthma flare if the weather conditions are right, even if they have been symptom free for many years.

Ms Macdonald said if people did believe they were experiencing asthma symptoms they should;

  • If you do not have asthma medication, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Use their reliever inhaler with a spacer when short of breath.
  • Continue with usual daily preventer medications, including antihistamines for hay fever.

    • Reliever inhalers should provide some relief within minutes, if they do not and symptoms rapidly worsen, call 000 and continue using reliever inhaler 4 puffs every 4 minutes.

Further information and instructions for use of inhaler and spacer can be found on the Asthma Foundation Australia website, www.asthmaaustralia.org.au.

People who are aware they suffer from pollen related hay fever/asthma should try and stay inside on windy, stormy days to try and reduce triggers.

Symptoms of asthma can include;

  • Cough, constant or intermittent

  • Increasing shortness of breath at rest

  • Wheeze

  • Tightness in chest.

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