Health officials are warning asthmatics in parts of Victoria to stay indoors due to dangerous weather conditions.
Victoria’s The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has forecast an epidemic thunderstorm with high pollen levels that could affect anyone with asthma will hit parts of the state on Wednesday.
A tweet shared by the DHHS on Tuesday evening reads: “The #thunderstormasthma forecast is HIGH for parts of Victoria tomorrow. Do you have asthma or hay fever? Are you prepared?
Metropolitan Melbourne’s risk has been listed as moderate while the regions in the north and west of the state have been placed on high alert.”
It also contained a map illustrating the areas most at risk.
The areas on high alert include South West, Wimmera, Mallee and Northern Country regions where anyone who suffers with asthma – a common medical condition that affects a person’s airways, making it difficult to breathe – are advised to avoid being outside.
Those in Melbourne, the North Central and West and South Gippsland are at moderate risk while those in the North East and East Gippsland are at low risk.
Officials have urged residents to be particularly aware of wind gusts that come before the storm, instructing people to close their doors and windows, and turn on airconditioning where possible to recirculate.
“Be alert to and act on the development of asthma symptoms,” the DHHS states.
Symptoms can include wheezing, a feeling of tightness in the chest and a persistent cough, Vic Health states.
Epidemic thunderstorm asthma is caused by heavy winds pushing around high volumes of grass pollen.
The potentially dangerous weather conditions typically occur from October through December during the grass pollen season.
Melbourne experienced the world’s largest epidemic thunderstorm asthma event on 21 November 2016, with thousands of people developing breathing difficulties in a very short period of time.
They are uncommon and don’t occur every year.
WHAT TO DO IF SOMEONE IS HAVING AN ASTHMA ATTACK?
The DHHS fact sheet that is available to download online recommends the following steps if you think someone is having an asthma attack:
Step 1: Sit the person upright
Step 2: Give 4 separate puffs of blue or grey reliever puffer – make sure you shake the puffer, put 1 puff into the spacer and get the person to take 4 breaths from the spacer. Repeat this until the person has taken 4 puffs. (If you don’t have a spacer, simply inhale 4 puffs directly by mouth). Remember: shake, 1 puff, 4 breaths.
Step 3: Wait 4 minutes. If there is no improvement, give the person 4 more separate puffs as in step 2. Remember: shake, 1 puff, 4 breaths.
Step 4: If there is still no improvement dial triple-0 for an ambulance. Keep giving the person 4 separate puffs every 4 minutes until emergency assistance arrives.
Call triple-0 immediately if the person is not breathing, if their asthma suddenly becomes worse, or if the person is having an asthma attack and there’s no blue or grey reliever available. If you’re not sure that it’s asthma, call triple-0 immediately.
Remember that asthma reliever medication used in an emergency is unlikely to cause harm, even if the person doesn’t have asthma.