Third death may be linked to asthma crisis

The 20-year-old lay on her lawn for more than 30 minutes waiting for an ambulance to arrive, while her family desperately performed CPR.

Dr John Weiner, consultant physician at AllergyNet Australia, said the conditions seen in Melbourne on Monday night had been "the flawless storm" for the 20% of the city's residents who are allergic to pollen.

A THUNDERSTORM which raged through Melbourne has killed at least two after it triggered hundreds of asthma attacks throughout the city.

The thunderstorm didn't only cause health problems with more than 300 calls to SES for fallen trees and building damage.

Victoria ran out of ambulances as emergency calls jumped 450 per cent, while several hospitals enacted disaster management plans. "They break up, and the small particles - which are allergens - become dispersed quite widely by the wind".

Similar thunderstorm asthma events have struck Melbourne in 2010 and 2011, although this week's incident was far more serious.

One anonymous intensive care paramedic told Fairfax he suspected 'a lot more than two people died'.

Melbourne's thunderstorm asthma event was caused by extreme levels of rye grass pollen in the air whipped up by strong winds. These particles can penetrate deep into people's lungs and trigger asthma attacks, ASCIA says.

Victims of thunderstorm asthma event
Clarence Leo has been named as the fourth victim of Tuesday’s asthma event

The humidity change of a ideal storm bursts pollen capsules, which explode tiny pollens at concentrations a million times higher than what is usually in the air and irritate airways.

The thunderstorm has additionally been recorded before in countries such as Croatia, Great Britain, Europe, and the USA.

Around 200 people called and said they had asthma specifically, while another 600 reported breathing problems. But asthma sufferers also needed ensure they were managing their condition, Mr Ould said.

Dr Judkins agrees. "So many people, for example, will have hay fever, which is an allergy to pollens, but may not have had asthma symptoms". There, the grains swell with so much water they rupture into tinier pieces, according to the prevailing hypothesis.

Inhaling the pollen fragments can cause an allergic reaction in the lungs resulting in the sudden onset of symptoms such as shortness of breath, a cough, a wheeze, and chest tightness.

Some patients had never before had asthma attacks, he said.

Pharmacies in Melbourne reported a rush on asthma medication ventolin.

It is understood a Code Brown was issued at University Hospital Geelong, which means the hospital discharges patients who are ready to go home so the emergency departments can send patients to wards, and make space for incoming people.

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