Thunderstorm asthma warning for NSW

NSW Health has warned asthmatics to take extra care as strong wind gusts and possible thunderstorms threaten to stir large amounts of pollen in the air, causing potentially life-threatening breathing difficulties, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Wind gusts across most of the state are steady at about 15 km/h, but are expected to pick up to between 20 and 30 km/h as a storm cell passes through from the west.

That, coupled with the mostly dry conditions, could result in a deadly set of circumstances for those with respiratory conditions, as pollen grains “explode” and release fine particles into the air that can be inhaled deeply, the newpaper reported.

“Even if you don’t have asthma, you should take extra care because pollen is at its highest level now and may spark breathing difficulties in some people,” NSW Health’s Director of Environmental Health Dr Richard Broome said.

The Bureau of Meteorology says there is a 30 per cent chance thunderstorms will hit Sydney’s CBD, but the potential introduction of a new storm cell could see storms persist throughout this week.

Following a severe thunderstorm in Melbourne in 2016, about 3600 more people than usual presented to hospital and nine died from asthma attacks.

Dr Broome says that, during this high-risk period, anyone who suffers from asthma should carry their asthma medication with them, ensure that they have an asthma action plan and that their loved ones know asthma first aid.

“While Sydney hasn’t had a major event like Melbourne, thunderstorm asthma events have been significant in rural areas of NSW and while unlikely, we can’t rule out a similar event happening in Sydney,” Dr Broome said.

Between 15 and 25 millimetres of rain is predicted for the Sydney’s metro area, intensifying the potential for respiratory reactions as pollen particles are split and dispersed in higher concentrations.

“We have pretty strong winds aloft in the atmosphere. Given the moisture, they could give a pretty heavy downburst of showers, particularly tomorrow,” Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Ashley Lange said.

Wind gusts are set to return with more force on Thursday, before conditions ease and the sun returns in Sydney’s metropolitan area on Friday to offer sufferers of respiratory conditions a  reprieve, the newspaper said.

Pharmacists should assist those suffering an asthma attack, by advising people to sit the sufferer upright, give them four separate puffs from their reliever puffer, give them four more puffs if there’s no improvement and, if the situation appears life threatening, call 000.


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