STRONG winds and an ‘‘extreme’’ pollen count wreaked havoc on asthma sufferers in the Hunter on Tuesday with ambulance paramedics called to treat 10 people struggling with the chronic inflammatory disease and several more with breathing difficulties.
The NSW Asthma Foundation said an early start to spring had brought a high pollen count which was mixing with warm temperatures and smoke from hazard reduction burns to make the ‘‘perfect storm’’ for asthma sufferers.
The Hunter, already considered an asthma hot spot in NSW due to the region’s extensive coal-related industries, was responsible for nearly half of the northern region’s call-outs on Tuesday.
Strong north-westerly winds caused a dust storm in the Upper Hunter on Tuesday morning, forcing Mount Thorley Warkworth Mine and two others to shut down operations.
An Ambulance Service of NSW said the figures only related to calls specifically about asthma and could be more than 30 per cent higher once sufferers of breathing difficulties were included.
The spokeswoman said paramedics had treated 34 sufferers across NSW by 10.30am, more than the entire total for Monday.
By 4pm the number had grown to 65.
‘‘On days like Tuesday where there is an extreme pollen count people should follow their asthma management plan closely,’’ an Ambulance Service of NSW spokeswoman said.
‘‘You should ensure you minimise your exposure to stimuli that ‘trigger’ your asthma.
‘‘We also advise hayfever sufferers to speak to their pharmacist about managing the sneezing and sniffling that can come from an increase of pollen in the air.’’
Asthma, a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways, causes recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing, particularly at night or in the early morning.