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Thunderstorm asthma continues to claim lives


At least 8 people are now believed to have died from the thunderstorm asthma epidemic that hit southern Victoria last Monday. Thousands of people across Melbourne and Geelong were affected, overwhelming emergency services and pushing pharmacies, GP clinics and hospital EDs to their limits. Our heartfelt thanks go to everyone who helped treat people during the thunderstorm asthma event last week.

‘Thunderstorm asthma’ is a potent mix of pollen and weather conditions that can trigger severe asthma symptoms. It occurs when a storm strikes on a hot and windy, high pollen day. When rain droplets hit the pollen, the pollen grains absorb the moisture and burst into tiny particles about one-thirtieth of their original size. These particles can then get deep inside the lungs and trigger a serious asthma attack. People who get severe hay fever from pollens during spring are most likely to be affected, even if they do not have pre-existing asthma. Those with poorly controlled pre-existing asthma are most at risk.

Various reviews and enquiries are underway into the thunderstorm asthma event. We will continue to assist the State Government Department of Health and related agencies with this process.

More information about thunderstorm asthma.

Thunderstorm asthma webinar

The Centre of Excellence in Severe Asthma will present a special live webinar on Thunderstorm Asthma with Professor Guy Marks this Friday. The seminar will provide insight into what causes thunderstorm asthma and treatment and management strategies to improve patient outcomes. Professor Marks is a respiratory physician and respiratory and environmental epidemiologist. He has pioneered work on measuring quality of life in people with asthma and described the importance of thunderstorm asthma.

Thunderstorm asthma – Professor Guy Marks

8:00am AEDT, Friday 2 December 2016

To register for the webinar, visit the website.

Older women still more at risk of dying from asthma

We continue to urge middle-aged and older women with asthma to take action to manage their condition as new ABS data shows that women aged over 55 continue to be most at risk of dying from asthma.

In total, 421 asthma-related deaths were recorded in Australia in 2015, comprising 278 females and 143 males. The overall figure is on par with figures from 2014.

Dr Jonathan Burdon AM, our Chairman, said “The new data shows that women with asthma aged 55 to 74 were more than twice as likely to die compared to their male counterparts, while those over 75 years were almost three times more likely to die from asthma than men of the same age. This is despite the prevalence of asthma sitting at around 9% for men and 13% for women.”

More information:

Media Release: Women most likely to die from asthma
Latest report: ABS customised report
Information paper: Asthma and the Over 65s

Centre of Excellence in Severe Asthma to host webinar


The Centre of Excellence in Severe Asthma is hosting a webinar on 8 December 2016 about Monoclonal Antibody Therapies for Severe Asthma. Hosted by Conjoint Professor Peter Wark the presentation will be held as a public lecture at the Hunter Medical Research Institute as well as being available live and online. 

Peter Wark is a senior staff specialist and a conjoint professor with the University of Newcastle. His research focuses on the impact of infections on airways disease, with a particular interest in viral infections and acute exacerbations of chronic airways disease. Peter is also a member of our Guidelines Committee which oversees the production of the Australian Asthma Handbook. 

For more information go to the website

Save the date for IPCRG Conferences

The International Primary Care Respiratory Group will hold several conferences in 2017 and 2018 starting with its 5th Scientific Meeting to be held in Slovenia from 17-18 May 2017. The first ever Regional Scientific Conference will be held in Sri Lanka from 3-5 August 2017 followed by the 9th World Conference being held in Porto, Portugal from 31 May to 2 June 2018.

For further details see the IPCRG website.

Rip up the carpet .... or not?


People with asthma and allergies are often advised to rip up the carpet and have a hard floor instead. However, this issue is more complex than it might seem. The first step is to determine what the clinically significant triggers are for the affected person. Allergen avoidance or reduction strategies are only worth considering if they target an important trigger, and even then must be weighed up for practicality and feasibility.
Of the common allergy triggers, house dust mites are usually the greatest concern as the mites can happily live and breed in rugs and carpets. Pet dander and mould can also be triggers relevant to flooring, but pollen is generally more of an outside problem.
Hard floors may appear to be the obvious answer. However, allergens of all types will be freer to float around and will more readily become airborne with a hard floor. Carpets have the benefit of being able to trap allergens in their pile, at least until vacuuming or other agitation causes the allergens to become airborne.
Importantly, not all carpets are the same – some contain reliable anti-fungal and/or aracacide (usually permethrin) additives to suppress mould and dust mites. Treated underlay is also available. Treated carpet, along with a relatively short pile height, provides an alternative for those people who want a soft floor covering and are allergic to house dust mites.
Regardless of the flooring type, regular cleaning is essential. For hard floors, using a damp or electrostatic cloth or mop will help reduce the amount of allergen that get stirred up. For carpets, using a vacuum cleaner with an effective filter (such as HEPA) will help trap the allergens in the machine. Sensitive people should avoid being in a room while its being vacuumed and for at least 20 minutes afterwards.
For more information on managing allergies go to our Asthma & Allergy information paper.

Australian Journal of Pharmacy: 10 Women of Influence announced


The announcement of the Australian Journal of Pharmacy's 10 Women of Influence caused a bit of buzz in our office recently, as a member of our own Guidelines Committee was featured. Dr Jenny Gowan, currently the Consultant Pharmacist of the Year and a former Pharmacist of the Year, has frequently contributed her professional expertise to our many resources.

We were also delighted to see our regular contributor Debbie Rigby named in the list. Debbie is a former Pharmacist of the Year and a long-standing advocate for good asthma care in pharmacy.

Our congratulations to both Jenny and Debbie on their recognition!

Upcoming conferences and events


Closing the Gap 2016
National Indigenous Health Conference and
2016 World Indigenous Allied Health Conference

1-3 December 
Cairns Queensland, Australia 
More information 

WAO International Scientific Conference 2016
6-9 December
Jerusalem, Israel 
More information 


4th International Workshop on Lung Health
New Paradigms in preventing exacerbations in respiratory diseases

19-21 January 2017
Budapest, Hungary
More information
Copyright © 2016 National Asthma Council Australia, All rights reserved.

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