Seasonal Health Information

Thunderstorm Asthma Alert – November & December 2020

  • People who have asthma or hay fever can get severe asthma symptoms during grass pollen season when high amounts of grass pollen in the air combine with a certain type of thunderstorm.
  • Thunderstorm asthma can affect those with asthma or hay fever – especially people who experience wheezing or coughing with their hay fever.
  • This can become very severe, very quickly and many people may require medical help at the same time. 
  • Epidemic thunderstorm asthma is when a large number of people develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time.
  • Melbourne experienced the world’s largest epidemic thunderstorm asthma event on 21 November 2016, with thousands of people developing breathing difficulties in a very short period of time.

  •  Thunderstorm asthma can affect those with asthma or hay fever – especially people who experience wheezing or coughing with their hay fever. That’s why it’s important for people with asthma or hay fever to know about thunderstorm asthma and what they can do to help protect themselves during grass pollen season. 

1. What can I do to protect myself this season?

  • where possible, avoid being outside during thunderstorms from October through 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.
  • have an asthma action plan (if advised to by your GP) and have practical knowledge of the four steps of asthma first aid
  • have reliever medication appropriately available in grass pollen season and be aware of how to use it (ideally with a spacer)
  • be alert to and act on the development of asthma symptoms as explained in your asthma action plan if you have one, or if you don’t, use asthma first aid.
  • Check the epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecast during the grass pollen season at VicEmergency.

 2. How will I know when an epidemic asthma thunderstorm event may happen?

Epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecasts in Victoria are available from 1 October to 31 December (the duration of the grass pollen season). 

Download the Vic Emergency app from Google Play or the App Store and set up a ‘watch zone’ for your location to make sure you’re notified of the risk of an epidemic thunderstorm asthma event occurring. You can also visit the Vic Emergency thunderstorm asthma webpage for updates and information.

You can also stay informed about pollen counts by visiting the Melbourne Pollen Count and Forecast website or downloading the app, or you can visit the Deakin AirWatch website.

3. Where to get help

Medical Assistance

  • In an emergency, always call triple zero (000)
  • Emergency department of your nearest hospital
  • Your GP
  • Your nearest pharmacy (for medication)
  • NURSE-ON-CALL Tel. 1300 60 60 24 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
  • National Home Doctor Service Tel. 13 SICK (13 7425) for after-hours home GP visits (bulked billed)

 More information on thunderstorm asthma is available at: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au