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Research Christmas 2017: Natural Phenomena

Stormy weather: a retrospective analysis of demand for emergency medical services during epidemic thunderstorm asthma

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5636 (Published 13 December 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5636

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Re: Stormy weather: a retrospective analysis of demand for emergency medical services during epidemic thunderstorm asthma

An important and significant finding during the unprecedented severity thunderstorm asthma event that occurred in Melbourne in November 2016 was the large number of previously asymptomatic and undiagnosed people who actually experienced symptoms but did not require emergency services or hospitalisation.

In as yet unpublished work, more than a third of people surveyed with no past history of asthma experienced symptoms during this event. Although the most frequent was hay fever, asthmatic symptoms were also not infrequently described. Not unexpectedly, in view of the severity of the event, taking preventer medication regularly was found to be insufficient to prevent symptoms, however it is possible that it may have moderated these.

We also noted that apart from treatment escalation with the use of antihistamines, inhaled bronchodilators, and oral steroids, about 5% of those who experienced symptoms on the day also attended their local medical practitioner.

The extreme severity of the thunderstorm asthma event in Melbourne highlights not only the observable extent of stress on a health care system but also the invisible burden and potential impact for the future.

Competing interests: No competing interests

20 December 2017
Vikas Wadhwa
Consultant Respiratory and Sleep Physician
Daniel Clayton-Chubb, Medical Registrar, Eastern Health
Eastern Health
Arnold Street, Box Hill, Victoria 3128, Australia