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Thunderstorm Asthma

The thunderstorm asthma event in Melbourne on Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 November last year was a sobering and sad reminder of the potential impacts of asthma.  Although uncommon, thunderstorm asthma has occurred previously in Australia and overseas and its mechanisms are understood however are very difficult to predict. Click here for more information on Thunderstorm Asthma. 

With a prevalence level of 11% (1 in 9) in Australia and over 400 deaths each year, asthma needs to be taken seriously by all in a duty of care position.  Asthma Australia’s training helps school staff to develop skills and confidence to administer Asthma First Aid in case of an asthma attack.  This training also addresses asthma management processes in schools and the relevant guidelines and legislation.

If a thunderstorm asthma event were to occur during school hours and you were faced with students having trouble breathing (whether known to have asthma or not), you would follow the Asthma First Aid protocol taught in the training for each student.  This includes calling an ambulance for any student having a suspected first asthma attack.  It is vital that school processes ensure that Asthma Emergency Kits (available through your local Asthma Foundation) are always properly stocked and medication is checked to ensure it has not run out and is in date.

Students likely to be most at risk of thunderstorm asthma would include those,

  • with a history of hay fever (80% of people with asthma also experience hay fever)
  • allergic to grass (in particular) and pollen (generally)
  • not currently using an asthma preventer (if prescribed)

Thunderstorm asthma can affect some people who have never been diagnosed with asthma.  Our survey following the thunderstorm asthma event showed that 4 in 10 people did not have a previous history of asthma.  This is why it is important you can recognize the signs and symptoms of asthma and know how to administer asthma first aid.  

As always, following your Asthma Australia training, there are staff available at your local Asthma Foundation to assist with all asthma issues for your school. 

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