Do Thunderstorms Trigger Asthma?
A cool refreshing breeze redolent of rain is wafting over me as I write this. The sky is overcast, and dark clouds are moving in; a distant rumble heard. As I inhale I can feel a slight tightness deep within.
This reminds me of an article I read a few years ago that said most asthmatics have fewer symptoms during the summer months, yet this isn’t so true during or after a thunderstorm.
The evidence showed there were an increased number of emergency room visits on days when there was a thunderstorm.
So many asthmatics complained of asthma symptoms after thunderstorms this prompted the powers that be to pay lots of money to study this matter.
I read it first at COPD News of the Day in her post, "Weather and COPD – thunderstorms linked to asthma attacks." She wrote about a study completed in the southern states by researchers at the University of Georgia and Emory University.
The study, which you can read more about here at Science Daily, examined 10 million emergency room visits for asthma in hospitals around Atlanta from 1993 to 2004, and concluded there was a three percent increase in asthma visits on the day after a thunderstorm.
Experts surmise this may be because rain causes pollen grains to rupture causing minute particles that can be inhaled. If it’s windy (I can still feel the breeze) these particles can waft right up your nares and into your lungs.
And of course we know what happens from there. If you’re allergic to pollen, inflammation in your sensitized lungs increases, and you feel tight – like I do now.
Another study reported here at Medescapes.com was done in 2003 in the United Kingdom and showed emergency rooms visits for asthma exacerbations increased 8.6-10 percent the day after a thunderstorm.
This study showed an increase in fungal spores by 50 percent, and determined this might be a possible cause of increased thunderstorm related asthma.
I observed rain as an asthma trigger years ago, yet I figured it was due to a change in barometric pressure or increased humidity. Yet the theories noted above make sense too.
The experts may continue to debate the cause for some time, yet it does appear that thunderstorms can indeed trigger asthma.
Of course we could shut our windows and hide in a bubble somewhere like my 2-year-old daughter would like done. She’s now grasping my leg and saying, “Daddy, I’m scared”.
Yet then we’d miss out on a good thunderstorm, and the cool, refreshing breeze it provides.
John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).