28 Oct La Niña weather pattern has Kathryn on high asthma alert
The thunderstorm season is always a concern for asthma sufferers like Kathryn Geddes, but this year she said she’d be keeping an even closer eye on the weather forecast.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there is a greater risk of an Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma event occurring this year due to the wet spring encouraging grass growth. This is caused by the La Niña effect.
Today, the Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma Forecast is HIGH in the south-west, prompting the chief health officer to issue a warning yesterday.
Ms Geddes, who works at Timboon and District Healthcare Service (TDHS), said she suffered from episodic and seasonal asthma and was among thousands of Victorians susceptible to thunderstorm asthma.
In 2016, seven men and three women died during a thunderstorm asthma event in Melbourne and more than 14,000 people flooded emergency departments with symptoms.
The complex and life-threatening phenomena is caused by high grass pollen levels. Just before certain thunderstorms, some pollens burst open and release tiny particles that get deep in people’s airways and trigger asthma symptoms.
Ms Geddes said her husband meticulously kept her up to date with the daily weather forecasts, asthma warnings, pollen levels and other triggers that impact her health.
“For me, northerly winds are terrible…I can tell you before I even get out of bed if there’s a northerly wind. That and high humidity knock me around,” she said.
“I get chest pains…tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. And tiredness – by the end of the day on a bad day I’m just completely worn out.”
Ms Geddes has only suffered from asthma for a couple of years, having lived most of her life with no symptoms at all.
“In 2019 I got sick with a chest infection, and it went into my lungs. I had a virus and required antibiotics and steroids to clear up the lungs,” she said.
“Since then I’ve had one full blown asthma attack which was terrifying and general symptoms come and go – particularly in the warmer, humid weather. From December to February last year, I wasn’t very well.
“I used to look forward to the warmer weather, but not anymore. Now, I use a preventer daily and Ventolin when I need it with a spacer. I know how serious an attack can be, so we treat it very seriously.
“I always carry a puffer now, even if I feel good, because you never know when it will rear its head and it can happen so quickly.”
More information about thunderstorm asthma and asthma in general, including pollen monitoring, can be found on the Asthma Australia website here www.asthma.org.au
This video also provides plenty of useful information.