Frequently Asked Questions

What caused the Thunderstorm Asthma event in November 2016?

The people affected by the Thunderstorm Asthma event were allergic to rye grass pollen.

Early in the Spring of 2016 rainfall was above average and grasses grew longer than usual. In November, at the peak of the hay fever season, large amounts of pollen were present in and around Melbourne.

On 21 November, a particular type of thunderstorm occurred involving an outflow tract. As the storm moved towards and across Melbourne from the West, it swept up large numbers of pollen grains. The grains absorbed moisture from the storm clouds, causing them to rupture. Each pollen grain can release hundreds of tiny allergenic particles following rupture and these particles are able to be inhaled easily into the lower airways (whereas the larger grains are usually filtered by the nose and are too large to penetrate to the lower airways) where they trigger an allergic response in susceptible individuals. Pollen was then dumped down to ground level and blown horizontally by the storm outflow, covering a large geographic area.

Rye grass allergy is common and usually manifests as hay fever during Spring. Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and asthma are similar, closely-related conditions. A proportion of the people affected by the Thunderstorm Asthma event had never experienced asthma symptoms before, but many of them had a history of allergic rhinitis.

The weather conditions leading up to 21 November 2016 resulted in large quantities of microscopic rye grass pollen particles spread across Melbourne and inhaled by people with allergic sensitisation. The result was an epidemic of acute asthma.

Dr Adrian Chazan


Dr Chazan is a Respiratory & Sleep Physician, and General Physician. Born in Melbourne, he undertook his basic medical training at the University of Melbourne. With a passion for sleep and breathing, he trained at world-renowned centres of excellence in Melbourne and Sydney, including Westmead Hospital, the Alfred Hospital and Monash Medical Centre. Adrian has been involved in research activities in the fields of sleep apnoea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and exercise physiology.

Adrian utilises the latest findings in sleep research as well as the emerging technologies in diagnosis and treatment. He takes a patient-centered approach to medical care with the aim of empowering his patients to achieve better sleep and optimal long-term health outcomes.

Dr Moayed Alawami


Dr Alawami earned his medical degree from The University of Auckland, embarking on a diverse medical journey across New Zealand’s two islands during his foundational physician training. Driven by a passion for solving medical puzzles, he pursued advanced training in general medicine with a subspecialty focus on respiratory medicine.

In 2018, Dr Alawami transitioned to Queensland, where he worked in one of the largest hospitals, the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, he served as a registrar in a dedicated Covid Unit. Seeking to enhance his skills, he relocated to Adelaide to specialize in bronchoscopy, focusing on linear and radial EBUS to advance the diagnosis of patients with lung tumours.

Currently serving as a Sleep Medicine Fellow at Western Health and now at The Centre for Sleep and Pulmonary Medicine, he is involved in teaching and training of medical students and basic physician trainees.

Dr Alawami’s achievements include receiving a Professional Development Grant from RACP Queensland. Notably, he was nominated for Registrar of the Year at RBWH. Dr Alawami holds a master’s degree in Biostatistics from The University of Queensland and published over 10 scientific articles as a trainee.

Dr Alawami invites referrals related to respiratory and sleep disorders medicine, addressing concerns such as cough, asthma, COPD, lung nodules, dyspnoea, sleep apnoea and other sleep-related problems, providing comprehensive investigation and expert care.

Dr Alawami speaks both English and Arabic.

Consulting in Werribee weekly each Wednesday