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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Thunderstorm asthma"

(Shutterstock image)

What a weird world we live in! 

Many of you have probably heard about "thunderstorm asthma" that hit Melbourne, Australia last week and left so many people unable to breathe.
What is thunderstorm asthma?

The Age, an Australian news source, explained it this way:

"In Melbourne, this phenomenon occurs when moisture-charged winds immediately before a storm whip up rye grass pollen from the pastures north and west of town, sweeping them into the city. Rye grass is the pollen that causes most cases of hay fever in Melbourne."
For those of you with allergies and asthma, you probably know what it's like to have hay fever cause an asthma attack. 
Ragweed, grass, flowers or trees are in bloom - you inhale the pollen and instantly you start sneezing and your chest tightens. Then the cough starts and you frantically paw through your purse to get your inhaler. (That's what I do anyway.......)
On Good Morning America, Bill Nye the Science Guy explained thunderstorm asthma in this video 
(My kids watched Bill Nye the Science Guy when they were growing up, so now every time I see him I get his theme song stuck in my head....."Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill Nye the Science Guy!") 

In Melbourne, the problem was the crazy wind broke the pollen into smaller pieces that were then inhaled by anyone that was outside. It hit a lot of people all at the same time
The New York Times reported that patients struggling to breath:

".... flooded the city’s emergency rooms, swamped ambulance call lines and joined lines around pharmacies during six hours on Nov. 21. All were struggling for breath. About 8,500 people went to hospitals. Eight have died, and one remains in intensive care more than a week after a thunderstorm surged across Melbourne, carrying pollen that strong winds and rain broke into tiny fragments."
You can watch a video from The Age and see how hospitals dealt with the flood of patients. 

That's a LOT of patients all at once. 

So, what do you do to protect yourself if you have allergies and asthma? 

It's hard to prepare for a freak storm! But - I try to prepare for ANY asthma emergency. 

My asthma inhaler goes everywhere with me. It's been to LA, Denver, Chicago, Houston, Washington DC and Paris. I never leave home without it - even when I head to the gym for a quick work out. I don't bring my purse to the gym, but instead bring my drawstring bag and throw in my inhaler, workout gloves, keys and water bottle.

I also know the emergency signs of an asthma attack and when I need to call 911 

When my kids were younger, they were hospitalized 12 times with pneumonia (2 of those were in ICU), so I know how scary it can be when you can't breathe. 

My heart aches for those who lost their lives to thunderstorm asthma. And I hope those who were treated in the hospital can keep getting better.

This makes me want to hug my kids (even if they are in high school and college) I can just see it now, "Oh sheesh mom! Not in front of my friends!" (Insert eye roll from kids.)

That's My Life as an Asthma Mom


  1. Off topic, but just wondering if you've used Wing ( It's a new simple device, that, when linked with a smart phone, bascially provides spirometry wherever you are. It's a relatively new product, and looks too good to be true!

    1. No, haven't tried it yet. But I'm not much for technology....

  2. Realized that I should have mentioned that I have no relationship to Wing other than being a hopeful customer ... I'm eager to see how it works for me.