Summer Planning Toolkit modules

Module 3: Chronic disease and heat



Asthma affects many patients differently, particularly during the heat. Some patients may experience heightened symptoms during weather changes, such as during the transition from winter into spring and summer, temporary changes in temperature, for example when moving from a hot humid day outside and into a cool building, and allergy triggers. Viral illness may also contribute. Heat does not necessarily cause different symptoms to normal; however, it is important for asthma patients to understand what their triggers are 26.

Visit the National Asthma Council Australia website for information on asthma action plans, education programs, and videos on using asthma devices:

Thunderstorm asthma

Thunderstorm asthma events occur when high levels of grass pollen in the air coincide with a certain type of thunderstorm. When this air is breathed into the lungs, it can trigger an asthma flare-up or attack 27.

People most at risk of thunderstorm asthma are thought to have:

  • a history of asthma
  • undiagnosed asthma
  • seasonal allergic rhinitis
  • rye grass/pollen allergy28

General practices are an essential part of the emergency response to thunderstorm asthma as they can help to prevent hospital admissions and unnecessary deaths.  During the 2016 thunderstorm asthma event in Victoria, GPs managed an additional 8,940 – 13,689 asthma-related cases and therefore prevented further strain on emergency departments 29.

The RACGP has published a fact sheet and media release on the risk factors for thunderstorm asthma. 

Preparing your practice

In the lead up to late spring and summer, your practice can prepare by:

  • securing sufficient supply of in-date reliever medication and spacers on site
  • ensuring that all staff, both clinical and non-clinical, are trained in asthma first-aid (further information can be found at the National Asthma Council website)
  • ensuring clinical staff are up to date with acute asthma management
  • monitoring local health department websites and the Bureau of Meteorology website for alerts and updates on whether there is a high risk for thunderstorm asthma
  • considering how your practice would respond to a surge in patients
  • identifying potential at-risk patients and communicating targeted messages to them (ie asthmatics, older people etc.)
  • planning for staff absences, ensuring staff contact details are up-to-date and staff allergies and asthma status are recorded.