respiratory
Allergy

Repeat of thunderstorm asthma event feared with SA dust storms


Dust storms in South Australia have prompted warnings for people with respiratory and cardiac conditions to take precautions to avoid a “thunderstorm asthma” like event

With the Bureau of Meteorology reporting strong northerly winds creating dust ahead of a massive old front moving across the state on 3 August, dust storms have stretched for more than 250 kilometres over South Australia, as far north as Whyalla and as far south as Port Lincoln.

The reports have led  health experts to advise people with respiratory conditions to stay indoors and have their asthma puffers handy.

“If there is an associated dust storm with these winds, people with pre-existing illnesses such as asthma and respiratory problems may have their symptoms aggravated,” SA Health chief medical officer Paddy Phillips said.

“We advise those people to avoid exposure to dust, stay indoors, take medication as usual and avoid exercise in areas of high dust.

“It is important to note that high winds induced-dust storms are a source of fine particulate matter (fPM) especially after a prolonged dry spell,” said Dr Pawan Sharma Research Leader, Respiratory Research Group at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and the Head of the Chronic Airways Disease Group at The University of Technology Sydney

“This fPM becomes extremely dangerous when combined with moisture and has the potential to exaggerate or precipitate existing respiratory and cardiac conditions. Therefore, care must be taken by people who have pre-existing allergies, such as hay fever, as small particles entering the lungs through the nose and can make people struggle to breathe even if they have never suffered asthma-like symptoms before.

It is advised that people with pre-existing asthma carry their puffers with them.”

Awareness of asthma from storms has increased since the storm that caused several deaths in Melbourne in November 2016.