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Victorians warned of ‘thunderstorm asthma’ risk as massive storms approach east coast

Victorians have been warned of thunderstorm asthma conditions as a high pollen count potentially combines with isolated storm cells in the state’s north east.

The Victorian Department of Health on Saturday morning issued a moderate thunderstorm asthma risk for the Northern Country, North East and East Gippsland areas.

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Queenslanders and Sydneysiders are also bracing for some wild weather on Saturday afternoon as massive storm cells start to build.

Thunderstorm asthma – a condition which has only recently landed on health radars – usually affects people in the windy period before rain starts, with symptoms including shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, wheezing when you breathe, and persistent coughing.

Storms Gympie
Camera IconStorm cells pass over Gympie as Queensland cops a barrage of October storms. Credit: News Corp Australia, Lachie Millard

Saturday’s warning for Victoria comes after Deakin University environmental allergist and associate professor Cenk Suphioglu this week warned the incoming thunderstorm asthma season could rival a 2016 event that killed 10 people and hospitalised 12,000 others.

According to Associate Professor Suphioglu, stormy, wet spring weather is expected to give rise to more grass growth and therefore, a high pollen count.

This is particularly dangerous for people with compromised immune systems after earlier contracting COVID-19

“In 2016, people who had never before experienced traditional asthma, but were allergic to grass pollen, suffered from thunderstorm asthma,” Associate Professor Suphioglu said.

“No one is immune from thunderstorm asthma, and anyone with a history of grass pollen allergy together with asthma or respiratory conditions should stay indoors if a thunderstorm asthma event is occurring.”

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Meanwhile, storms are expected to hit Sydney later this afternoon, and Brisbane is bracing for another bout of extreme weather.

More than 120mm fell in parts of Queensland’s north-west overnight, with the Bureau of Meteorology warning the densely-populated southeast corner to expect a thunderstorm, possible severe, during the afternoon and evening.

The Sunshine state has copped a barrage of wild weather this week including supercell storms, a mini tornado at Brisbane Airport, and record-breaking 16cm hailstones near Mackay.

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