Thunderstorm asthma is a cause of potentially catastrophic, widespread bronchospasm that can affect many people simultaneously. The causes, management and implications for primary care of this unique phenomenon are reviewed in this article.
- Thunderstorm asthma is a rare event caused by a unique combination of climatic conditions and airborne allergens affecting susceptible people.
- Epidemic asthma can occur, having the potential to affect hundreds of patients across a wide geographical area and placing overwhelming demand on ambulance and health services.
- People considered at risk of thunderstorm asthma are those with seasonal asthma, hay fever or known ryegrass or fungal-spore allergy. Spring predominance has been seen in Australian episodes.
- Strategies to prevent thunderstorm asthma in susceptible people include having an up-to-date asthma action plan, inhaled preventer use and remaining indoors during high-risk days.
- GP management is important to identify and educate at-risk patients, optimise preventive strategies and, potentially, treat acute asthma during outbreaks.
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