Behind the Forecast: How thunderstorms can trigger asthma attacks
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Thunderstorms causing asthma attacks? It’s possible!
Thunderstorm asthma has been reported since the 1980s in Australia and England. In November 2016, severe thunderstorms passed through Melbourne, Australia. More than 8,000 people sought emergency medical care for asthma; eight died.
Scientists define thunderstorm asthma as an asthma attack that begins or worsens after a thunderstorm.
Usually, rain from thunderstorms washes pollen and other allergens out of the air, helping to reduce allergy symptoms. A 2008 study in Atlanta found that thunderstorm asthma may be caused by rainwater rupturing pollen grains on contact, breaking down allergens into smaller particles and releasing them into the air. A thunderstorm’s downdrafts of cold air concentrate then spread these particles, making them easier to inhale, and potentially increasing asthma attacks.
A May 2022 study found that 65% of people in the study with seasonal allergies reported dealing with thunderstorm asthma.
Situations like what happened in Melbourne are rare; only a small, sensitive portion of the population is usually impacted. If you suffer from asthma, it’s still important to be cautious when outside on stormy days.
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