Urgent Asthma Warning Amid Thunderstorm Threat In Sydney

The NSW Department of Health has issued an urgent warning about the imminent threat of thunderstorm asthma.

The condition gained widespread attention in 2016, when 9 people were killed in Melbourne after a freak storm event.

Thunderstorms are forecast for much of NSW on Tuesday, so people prone to respiratory conditions and hay-fever are being urged to take extra care.

NSW Health's Director of Environmental Health, Dr Richard Broome, said late spring saw high levels of pollen in the air, which could trigger asthma and respiratory conditions, especially during thunderstorms.

"Even if you don't have asthma, you should take extra care because pollen is at its highest level now and may spark breathing difficulties in some people," Dr Broome said.

"Thunderstorms cause pollen grains to explode and release fine particles which can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, causing even more people to wheeze and sneeze."
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Not only was the Melbourne storm in 2016 fatal, emergency departments were over run with people suffering asthma attacks. They treated 3,600 more people than normal at that time of year.

"While Sydney hasn't had a major event like Melbourne, thunderstorm asthma events have been significant in rural areas of NSW and while unlikely, we can't rule out a similar event happening in Sydney," Dr Broome said.

"Anyone with diagnosed asthma should carry their asthma medication with them at all times during this high-risk period."