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. Following this event, the now Department of Health and Aged Care developed a multi-faceted, comprehensive Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma Program to address potential future impacts.
Grass pollen season, which typically runs from the start of October until the end of December, brings with it a seasonal increase in asthma and hay fever and the chance of thunderstorm asthma.
When large numbers 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.
Health professionals including general practitioners, pharmacists and nurses have a vital role to play in reducing the risk to the community from epidemic thunderstorm asthma events.
Optimising diagnosis, clinical care and self-management of asthma and hay fever is the key to responding to the risk of epidemic thunderstorm asthma events.
Resources for health professionals
- HealthPathways Melbourne pages including:
- Victorian Department of Health program overview
- Epidemic thunderstorm asthma preparedness guidance for GP respiratory clinics
- Additional resources are also available from the National Asthma Council
- For COVID-19 clinical advice and resources, visit Clinical guidance and resources - COVID-19
Thunderstorm asthma resources for patients
- Better Health Channel
- Campaign toolkit
- Multicultural resources
- The VicEmergency website
- Victoria’s epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast
- Visit melbournepollen.com.au for a pollen count and forecast.
Spirometry resources for health professionals
Spirometry is the most frequently performed lung function test in General Practice.
Risk control strategies to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in pulmonary function testing, have been introduced, reviewed and amended throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidence grows and evolves.
The advice is intended to supplement local infection prevention and state, territory or national directives.
The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand, Australian and New Zealand Society of Respiratory Science and the National Asthma Council Australia’s messages, reflect a precautionary approach to protect the safety of both healthcare workers and patients in a rapidly changing environment. The decision on strategies employed may vary depending on local transmission and practice environment.
- National Asthma Council Australia, spirometry infection control recommendations for Primary Care.
- The video “Performing spirometry in primary care in the COVID-19 pandemic” Updated September 2022 includes the latest information about performing spirometry in primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This NAC information is due for Review 01 Feb 2023.
Asthma Australia has also produced a two-part video summarising these new guidelines on performing spirometry safely in primary care settings.