Thunderstorm Asthma Season - What do I need to know?

October marks the beginning of thunderstorm asthma season. For those with asthma, allergies and people who experience hay fever, this can be a dangerous time.

Melbourne experienced the world’s largest epidemic of thunderstorm asthma in 2016 resulting in 10 deaths and 8,500 hospitalisations. 

It is important to be aware of the risk of thunderstorm asthma in general throughout the grass pollen season and be appropriately prepared.

What is thunderstorm asthma? 

Thunderstorm asthma is triggered by a combination of dry grass pollen in the air and weather that is hot, dry, windy and stormy. When grass pollen grains burst in windy conditions, the tiny particles can get lodged in the throat and lungs causing breathing difficulties. 

Who is affected by thunderstorm asthma? 

This unique combination of events can induce asthma attacks even in people who have never experienced asthma before, this is what makes thunderstorm asthma particularly dangerous. 

Thunderstorm asthma is most prevalent in people who:

  • Are allergic to dry grass pollen.
  • Have asthma. 
  • Experience hay fever with wheezing or coughing symptoms. 

How can I stay safe during thunderstorm asthma season?

Monitoring the epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast between October 1 and December 31 is the best way to stay up to date with weather conditions and prepare accordingly. 

The forecast can be accessed three days in advance via:

Vic Emergency Website and app:

You can set up a ‘watch zone’ through the Vic Emergency App to get notification updates for your local area. 

Melbourne Pollen Count and Forecast:

Victorian Department of Health:


Avoid going outside during storms and ensure you have access to asthma relief in the event of an attack. Take preventative medication as directed by your healthcare professional, even when you are symptom-free. 

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