Project Lead

Professor Jo Douglass

Lead partner

The University of Melbourne


Austin Health, Melbourne Health, Northern Health, The University of Melbourne, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Western Health

Project summary

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This project has several aims: (a) to determine who is most at risk, (b) to monitor those at risk and track how air quality impacts them, and (c) to extend our ability to provide pollen warnings across additional states in Australia.

a) A Victoria wide telephone survey has already been completed which confirmed that people with pre-existing asthma have increased risk, as do those born overseas. This work has been used to advise guidelines issued by the Victorian DHHS to provide treatment recommendations for clinicians and patients at risk.

b) The TAISAR study: (Thunderstorm Asthma in Severe Allergic Rhinitis) – A group of 6 hospitals across Victoria have been recruiting patients into a study that collects medical data on affected patients and is establishing a biobank for future research. This study will utilise a smartphone app that will collect environmental data so we can connect this to asthma attacks in the patient group for the first time.

c) Australia needs a national pollen counting capability. This project will extend the existing pollen counting systems in Victoria, NSW, QLD and Tasmania into all other states – in particular SA and WA will have publically available pollen data for the first time this coming pollen season.

To enable government and health professionals to provide evidence-based, targeted advice to people with grass pollen allergy on the risks of thunderstorm asthma, this project has:

  • Provided new information for Victoria’s emergency care planning by defining patient risk factors for urgent hospital admission with thunderstorm asthma
  • Enabled a national pollen counting regime through the establishment of the of the South Australian and the Western Australian Pollen Counts;
  • Changed policy in Victoria on biobanking for future research in this and other causes of sudden death (for example by securing permission to include material from deceased patients)

  1. Nur-Shirin Harun, Philippe Lachapelle, Gayan Bowatte, Caroline Lodge, George Braitberg, Louis Irving, Timothy Hinks, Shyamali Dharmage & Jo Douglass (2020) 2016 Thunderstorm-asthma epidemic in Melbourne, Australia: An analysis of patient characteristics associated with hospitalization, Canadian Journal of Respiratory, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, DOI: 10.1080/24745332.2020.1727301
  2. Harun NS, Lachapelle P, Douglass J. Thunderstorm asthma: what we know so far. J Allergy & Asthma 2019: 12: 101-108
  3. Hew M, Lee J, Susanto NH, Prasad S, Bardin PG, Barnes S, Ruane L, Southcott AM, Gillman A, Young A, Rangamuwa K, O’Hehir RE, McDonald C, Sutherland M, Conron M, Matthews S, Harun NS, Lachapelle P, Douglass JA, Irving L, Langton D, Mann J, Erbas B, Thien F. The 2016 Melbourne thunderstorm asthma epidemic: Risk factors for severe attacks requiring hospital admission. Allergy. 2019 Jan;74(1):122-130. doi: 10.1111/all.13609. Epub 2018 Oct 11. PubMed PMID: 30243030.
  4. The Conversation: Pollen does more than make you sneeze. It can cause thunderstorm asthma, even if you’re not asthmatic