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How Do Storms Affect Asthma?

By Hugh Dominic W Stiles, on 18 June 2018

by Abir Mukherjee

D’Amato and colleagues discuss the idea that thunderstorms in pollen season can induce severe asthma attacks in susceptible pollinosis patients.
The scientific background to this observation is that that storms can concentrate pollen grains at ground level, which may then release allergenic particles of respirable size in the atmosphere after their imbibition of water and rupture by osmotic shock. During the first 20-30 minutes of a thunderstorm, a large amount of pollen is dispersed into the atmosphere as a bioaerosol of allergenic particles, which can induce asthmatic reactions, often severe. Subjects without asthma symptoms, but affected by seasonal rhinitis can also experience an asthma attack
A key message for susceptible patients is increasing awareness of being outdoors during a thunderstorm in the pollen season could trigger an asthma attack.
Davies et al in the BMJ (2018) also discuss the phenomenon of epidemic thunderstorm asthma. They suggest proactive measures to identify and pre-emptively protect susceptible people are critical to mitigating the effects of thunderstorm asthma. Whilst known previous asthma seems to be an inadequate predictor of risk, seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) from grass pollen allergy, and degree of sensitisation, appears to be a universal risk factor among affected patients.

References

How Do Storms Affect Asthma?
Author(s) D’Amato G; Annesi-Maesano I; Vaghi A; Cecchi L; D’Amato M
Source Current Allergy and Asthma Reports; Mar 2018; vol. 18 (no. 4); p. 24

Thunderstorm asthma: controlling (deadly) grass pollen allergy
Author(s) Davies, J.M., Thien, F. and Hew, M., 2018.
Source BMJ: British Medical Journal (Online), 360.5

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