Thunderstorms and Asthma

Studies have shown that ER treatments for asthma symptoms increase following thunderstorms. Dr. Myron J. Zitt, an allergist and immunologist at Nassau University Medical Center and the Mid Island Allergy group on Long Island, N.Y. says that no one is sure why this happens. It may be that a high level of pollen is released into the air during a thunderstorm.

In 2008 the University of Georgia and Emory University also discovered a link between thunderstorms and asthma attacks in the Atlanta area.  This is the first time that climatologists and epidemiologists conducted a study of the phenomenon in the South.

The team studied a database of more than 10 million emergency room visit in 41 hospitals covering a 20 county area in and around Atlanta during the period of 1993-2004. They found a 3% higher incidence of asthma attacks on days following thunderstorms.

The next step after this study was completed was for UGA and Emory to apply Doppler radar, modeling and observational data to the problem of thunderstorms and asthma. Andrew  Grundstein, a climatologist in the department of Geography at UGA and lead author of the study says that adding radar data to the metro Atlanta database will allow correlation between thunderstorms and asthma attacks.

The authors also think pollen has something to do with the increase in asthma attacks. It may be that pollen grains rupture upon contact with rain water and release respiratory allergens. Then the gusty winds from the thunderstorm downdraft and spread particles leading to more asthma attacks.

If this is true, it is important information asthma sufferers and may prepare them the opportunity to prevent asthma attacks during thunderstorms.

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