Melbourne's Thunderstorm Asthma Tragedy

Nov. 24, 2016

Our thoughts are with those who suffered in Melbourne’s tragic Thunderstorm Asthma event

'Thunderstorm asthma': Three people remain critical, at least four dead (By Patrick Wright)

"Three people remain in a critical condition after Melbourne's "thunderstorm asthma" emergency, with a number more in intensive care units, Victoria's health department says. Key points:

  • 8,500 people presented to emergency departments on Monday and Tuesday
  • At least four people confirmed dead
  • Health Minister says many patients had cardiac conditions

Thousands of people were affected by the condition on Monday, after heavy rain caused rye grass pollen to absorb moisture and burst, dispersing smaller particles that became trapped in people's lungs."

Also see News World

Learn more about how thunderstorm asthma happens

Is thunderstorm asthma likely in Brisbane?

Whilst we have frequent summer thunderstorm events, Brisbane has different types of grasses with different patterns of flowering. Grass pollen is in our air for longer periods of the year (spring through to Autumn) but often at lower levels rather than concentrated into a short, sharp peak of grass pollen as usually occurs in Melbourne in spring. Other weather factors we are yet to fully understand that contribute to thunderstorm asthma. We don’t have good data on any associations between pollen and asthma in Brisbane, but acute episodes of thunderstorm asthma have not been observed and are less likely in Brisbane.

Thunderstorm asthma has also occurred in Wagga Wagga, northern NSW, UK and USA. More research is necessary to understand, predict and prevent further thunderstorm asthma tragedies.


Aust N Z J Public Health. 2015 Feb; 39(1): 51–55. See

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