Thunderstorm asthma: are you prepared?

Nicholas, 20 months, is getting ready for this year’s pollen season.

Ahead of this year’s grass pollen season we are encouraging anyone who thinks they might be at risk of a sudden asthma attack to have an appropriate action plan and medication on hand.

Who is at risk?

If your child has eczema, hay fever, or if there’s a history of asthma and allergies in the family, then your child is more at risk of having a sudden asthma attack. For these children, it’s recommended you have some reliever medication and a spacer on hand.

Reliever medication is available over the counter, but it is also important to see a GP for review and to have a plan of what to do if your child gets asthma when they haven’t had it before.

Additionally, if your child was affected by last year’s thunderstorm asthma event, they are at risk again this season. Symptoms of asthma include:

  • Coughing – which usually happens at night, during the early hours of the morning, when the weather is cool and during exercise.
  • Wheezing – when breathing sounds like whistles.
  • Breathing problems.

What to do

Having an up-to-date asthma management plan is the best way to manage diagnosed asthma in children – your GP can help with this. Always follow your child’s management plan if they have one.

  • Everyone with asthma or at risk of asthma should have a reliever medication and use it with a spacer.
  • Your child may need a preventer medication. Your GP will determine if one is necessary, either for the whole year or for specific times, such as before and during spring.

If your child is wheezing or struggling to breathe, treatment is the same as for an asthma attack. If you don’t have any asthma medication, call 000 straight away.

  1. Sit your child upright and give reassurance – do not leave them alone.
  2. Without delay, give your child four separate puffs of the blue/grey reliever medication (such as Airomir, Asmol, Bricanyl or Ventolin). If using a puffer (like Ventolin or Asmol), this should be taken one puff at a time via a spacer. Ask your child to take four breaths from the spacer after each puff of medication.
  3. Wait four minutes. If there is little or no improvement, repeat steps 2 and 3.
  4. If there is still no improvement, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance immediately. Repeat steps 2 and 3 continuously while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

More information

See your GP if you think your child is at risk of thunderstorm asthma, or to ensure you have an up-to-date asthma management plan. You can read more on asthma in our Kids Health Info fact sheet on Asthma. 


3 comments for “Thunderstorm asthma: are you prepared?”

  1. Liz Hayes

    The use of a preventer is an integral part of our Daughter’s asthma management plan.
    Also to add – shake the reliever between each puff into spacer.

  2. Rachel

    Is there a minimum age for this? My daughter fits the at risk category and is 15 months. I have been advised previously that asthma is not diagnosed till 2?

    • Rebekah

      My dourghter went to the Ed with something I thought was croup to find out at 4 months he doctor told me it was Asmar but they can not Tell probably to she is 2 she is not 10
      Months and in the last few months in heyfever month she really struggled and had all the sighs as of above as she is so young a doctor told and that they can’t give her anything to take home to help as she is to young a paediatrician has to over see it we are now on the waiting list

      I also have. A 5 year old that has heyfever issues really bad and. 1 year old that has exmra really badly

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