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Thunderstorm asthma warning heightened post-COVID-19

Thunderstorm asthma warning heightened post-COVID-19

A Deakin University environmental allergist has warned that Victorians who experienced COVID-19 may have increased susceptibility to thunderstorm asthma.

Associate Professor Cenk Suphioglu, who is director of Deakin’s AIRwatch pollen counting and forecasting facility, noted that COVID-19, as well as influenza and pneumonia, leave people’s airways less able to combat asthma. This makes them potentially more vulnerable to thunderstorm asthma, even if they’ve never before experienced traditional asthma.

‘In researching long COVID, health officials have collected anecdotal evidence that common symptoms being reported – including breathlessness, wheezing and a tight chest – are textbook asthma symptoms,’ said Associate Professor Suphioglu.

‘It therefore makes sense that anyone who has had a severe respiratory illness this year is at a higher risk when it comes to suffering from thunderstorm asthma, even if they have never had traditional asthma before.’

2022 could rival 2016 epidemic

Associate Professor Suphioglu also said that 2022 is shaping up to be a ‘perfect storm’ for thunderstorm asthma, with high pollen counts, stormy weather and humidity expected from the start of November. ‘It could rival the 2016 epidemic.’

In anticipation, the Andrews Labor Government re-launched its thunderstorm asthma monitoring, prediction and alert system for 2022 to ensure Victorians are notified of high-risk events this pollen season.

The Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma Risk Forecasting System will operate until 31 December 2022, issuing twice-daily risk forecasts. The forecasts estimate risk for three days in advance and provide a low (green), moderate (orange) or high (red) risk forecast across the nine Victorian weather districts.

People at risk during grass pollen season are encouraged to download the VicEmergency app (from Google Play or the App Store) and set up a watch zone.

Members are advised to be prepared for potential added pressures on the health system, coming off the back of two+ years of pandemic conditions having stretched resources.

Nurses and midwives, and nursing and midwifery students, are encouraged to access the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV) for support to protect your own health and wellbeing.