What is Thunderstorm Asthma?

thunderstorm asthma

What is thunderstorm asthma?

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.

This can become very severe, very quickly and many people may require medical help at the same 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.


Who is most at risk of thunderstorm asthma?

Those at increased risk of thunderstorm asthma include:

  • people with asthma
  • people with un-diagnosed asthma (i.e. people who have asthma symptoms but have not yet been diagnosed with asthma)
  • those who have had asthma in the past
  • people with hay fever who may or may not have asthma.


It’s important to remember:

  • Having both asthma and hay fever or poor control of asthma increases the risk further.
  • Thunderstorm asthma can affect people living in metropolitan, regional or rural areas, even if they don’t have a history of asthma.
  • Symptoms of epidemic thunderstorm asthma are essentially the same as asthma triggered by other causes.

It is important that you have an asthma action plan in place so you are prepared in case Thunderstorm Asthma hits. You can see one of WellCrest Medical GPs to organise your asthma action plan today!

Watch this short video on ways that will help you if Thunderstorm Asthma hits!