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Two Lives Claimed, So What Exactly Is 'Thunderstorm Asthma'?

TWO people died waiting for ambulances last night as wild weather triggered scores of cases of “thunderstorm asthma”.

The spate of asthma attacks left emergency services struggling, as people with breathing difficulties presented at emergency rooms, called ambulances and rushed to chemists for inhalers.

The breakout prompting a ‘major disaster response’ from emergency services.

what exactly is 'Thunderstorm Asthma'?

* an epidemic of asthma symptoms during or immediately following a thunderstorm

WHAT CAUSED MONDAY'S EVENT?

* pollen blew into the city during the blustery day from the state's northern pastures

* pollen grains absorbed moisture during the evening thunderstorms and then burst into hundreds of tiny allergenic fragments

* those tiny fragments are small enough to penetrate deep into the airways, thus causing asthma

HOW MANY CALLS TO EMERGENCY SERVICES?

* 1900 triple-zero calls for ambulance from 6pm to 11pm - normally there'd be about 345 calls in that time

* most nights Ambulance Victoria has 10 to 20 cases on hold but at one point on Monday some 190 cases were waiting

* last similar event in Melbourne was November 2010

* most calls were for patients in Melbourne's west

* people had asthma who'd never previously experienced breathing issues

* paramedics called in help from the MFB, police and doctors to deal with the spike in demand

* "We essentially had a day's workload within five hours," Ambulance Victoria's executive director emergency operations Mick Stephenson said on Tuesday

MONDAY'S POLLEN COUNTS

* Melbourne - extreme with 102 grass grains per m3 of air recorded

THE MISCONCEPTIONS

* "my hayfever turned into asthma" - one in four people with hay fever also have asthma and pollen can trigger both conditions

* "rain washes the pollen away" - the rain causes pollen to burst so rain can exacerbate discomfort for some

Source: AAP/Staff Writers

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