Thunderstorms can trigger asthma attacks

December 8, 2009 by  
Filed under ASTHMA

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thunderstormWhat triggers asthma attacks? Many things, such as dust, pollens, animal hair, toxic fumes, etc. But what about weather, particularly thunderstorms?

Over the years, there have been people who reported that their asthma attacks come right after thunderstorms. I remember my dad has these experiences. Is this pure coincidence? Or is there a scientific explanation behind this phenomenon?

My mom used to tell my Dad it may be the sudden change in air temperature that triggers his asthma attacks. Other people believe it is the change in humidity.

Well, scientists at the University of Georgia say there is indeed some truth into the thunderstorm- asthma link and the reason is probably that thunderstorms bring rains that break up pollen grains and winds that scatter dust particles and other potential allergens.

According to meteorologist Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd at the University of Georgia

“The rainfall actually can break the pollens into smaller aero-allergens — the pollen grains — and this can actually exacerbate upper respiratory problems.  Secondly, the windy gusts from thunderstorms actually serve to disperse these aero-allergens in a larger area around the thunderstorms themselves.”

The researchers based their findings on analysis of data from emergency room of 41 hospitals in 20 Georgia countries, records which covered 12 years. Data analysis showed that emergency room visits due to asthma attacked spiked in the days immediately after thunderstorms.

“Certainly, any location that sees thunderstorms regularly throughout the year would likely be susceptible to this phenomenon,” Dr. Shepherd says.

The future doesn’t bode well. With the current problem of global warming and climate changes, the number of thunderstorms is expected to increase in the coming years. This means more trouble for people with asthma.

The good news is “forewarned is forearmed”. Now that people knows what triggers the asthma attacks, they are better prepared for it. It may be prudent to stay indoors immediately after a thunderstorm. Be ready with your asthma medications.

Living with asthma is difficult. I had siblings who suffered from asthma in their childhood years, which, luckily disappeared as they grew older. In the US alone, it is estimated that more than 20 million people suffer from asthma.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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