Grass pollen season brings a seasonal increase in asthma and hay fever. It also brings the chance of thunderstorm asthma.
When a large number of people develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time, caused by high amounts of grass pollen and a certain type of thunderstorm, it is known as epidemic thunderstorm asthma.
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.
GPs may see an increase in requests from patients needing to create or update an asthma plan. Performing spirometry – lung function tests – is complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here is our list of the key resources for primary care.
Thunderstorm asthma resources for clinicians
- HealthPathways Melbourne pages including:
- Our recent webinar with the National Asthma Council
- Victorian Department of Health program overview (.pdf)
Thunderstorm asthma resources for patients
- Better Health Channel
- Campaign toolkit
- Multicultural resources
- The VicEmergency website includes a filter for thunderstorm asthma. The VicEmergency app is also available to download for iOS and Android.
- Victoria’s epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast will recommence on 1 October 2022.
- Visit melbournepollen.com.au for a pollen count and forecast.
Spirometry resources for clinicians
Early in the pandemic, peak bodies recommended the suspension of respiratory function testing, including spirometry testing, in general practice settings. Spirometry is a high-risk procedure because it requires a forced expiratory manoeuvre which could generate aerosols, with potential transmission of COVID-19.
As the pandemic continues, there is an increasing need to be able to perform spirometry in some circumstances. The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) and Australia and New Zealand Society of Respiratory Science (ANZSRS) have this year published updated guidelines for performing spirometry in primary care settings (.pdf).
Other resources include:
- these tips from our GP adviser Dr Jeannie Knapp
- Spirometry Interpretation and Lung Function Testing pages on HealthPathways Melbourne
- this 2-part video produced by Asthma Australia and Adelaide Primary Health Network
- this video produced by Murray Primary Health Network (also available to watch below)
- the Victorian Infection Prevention Helpline.