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Preventing Thunderstorm Asthma

Following media reports about a treatment for grass pollen allergy that may help protect against thunderstorm asthma, Asthma Australia issues this statement.

A recent Melbourne based study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care involved 38 participants and showed that the allergy treatment ORALAIR was able to reduce symptoms of grass pollen allergy.

By chance, the study was underway when Melbourne experienced an epidemic thunderstorm asthma event in 2016 and participants taking the medication reported no asthma exacerbations as a result of the event.

This treatment is not specifically for people with asthma and according to the manufacturer is not suitable for people with ‘severe, unstable or uncontrolled asthma.’

The results are encouraging for people with pollen sensitive asthma and those interested in this medication should discuss with their General Practitioner whether this may be a suitable treatment option.

Referral to an allergy specialist is then required to access the medication if it is appropriate.

ORALAIR is not listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and therefore has a cost to patients of around $350 for a four-month course.

Asthma Australia welcomes advances in research and these latest results demonstrate great potential for immunotherapy treatments to tackle asthma triggers. 

People at risk of acute asthma flare-ups triggered by a thunderstorm include those with seasonal allergic rhinitis (with or without asthma), those with asthma (or a history of asthma), and those with undiagnosed asthma.

Anyone concerned that they fit these categories should contact their doctor in advance of spring and pollen season.

Maintaining good asthma control year-round is essential to reduce the risk of asthma flare-ups when exposed to seasonal allergens and other triggers. Good asthma management includes2:

  • Regular reviews with your GP to ensure your current medication and dose is appropriate, and your asthma action plan is up to date
  • Take your preventer daily as prescribed – preventer medicine is very effective if taken continuously and can be ineffective if used sporadically
  • Manage seasonal hay fever symptoms, including preventive intranasal corticosteroid treatment
  • Use a spacer to ensure the most effective distribution of medication into the lower lungs where it is needed
  • Ensure you are using your device correctly – your GP or pharmacist can review your technique
  • Follow your asthma action plan Ensure you have access to your blue/grey reliever puffer at all times during grass pollen season

 
Links:

ORALAIR
http://www.oralair.com/

Asthma flare-ups
http://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/clinical-issues/thunderstorm-asthma

Undiagnosed asthma
http://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/clinical-issues/thunderstorm-asthma

Preventing thunderstorm-triggered asthma http://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/clinical-issues/thunderstorm-asthma#evref-6

References: 

  1. Davies, Janet, Queensland University of Technology,. Literature review on thunderstorm asthma and its implications for public health advice. Final report. Victorian State Government Department of Health and Human Services, Melbourne, 2017.
  2. National Asthma Council Australia. Thunderstorm asthma. An information paper for health professionals.. NACA, Melbourne, 2017. https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/living-with-asthma/resources/health-professionals/information-paper/thunderstorm-asthma

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