The Thunderstorm Asthma in Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (TAISAR) study confirms clinical tests can identify the risk of thunderstorm asthma in individuals who suffer from hay fever. 

A group of Melbourne researchers have studied 228 participants from across Victoria to identify risk factors of a history of thunderstorm asthma and hospital presentations in individuals with hay fever.

The study, led by the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s (RMH) Director of Research and Head of Department of Medicine at Melbourne Medical School, Professor Jo Douglass says participants underwent various questionnaires and blood and lung function tests.

“The TAISAR study is the first to suggest a threshold of blood specific immunoglobulin E (lgE) to rye grass pollen which was strongly associated with suffering from thunderstorm asthma in people with hay fever,” said Prof Douglass. “Other risk factors were an elevated count of allergic cells in the blood and a slightly lower lung function.”

Thunderstorm asthma is a recurring event in Victoria that has the potential to overwhelm health services, and trigger an environmental health emergency.

“Melbourne’s 2016 event was the worst ever recorded and tragically saw ten deaths. While environmental health measures such as staying inside while storm fronts pass can help they may not keep everyone safe.

“Asthma preventive treatments are effective but are unlikely to be taken by 1/5 people in Victoria who suffer from hay fever, so we need a way to assess individual risk,” said Prof Douglass.

Published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the TAISAR study was funded by the Medical Research Future Fund through the Melbourne Academic Centre for Health, and was a collaboration between investigators across six Melbourne hospitals (RMH, Northern Health, Austin Health, Western Health, St Vincent’s and Monash Health), and the School of Population Health and Department of Botany at the University of Melbourne.

“TAISAR demonstrates risk factors for having had thunderstorm asthma in people with hay fever that can be used to advise people of their risk. These tests can be performed in a general practice and could be used to target preventive therapies in those most at risk to keep people safe from future attacks,” added Prof Douglass.

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