As the warm summer months approach, bringing with them the promise of outdoor adventures and refreshing thunderstorms, there lies a hidden threat lurking within these powerful weather systems: thunderstorm asthma. This phenomenon, often shrouded in mystery, can trigger severe asthma attacks in individuals who are not typically symptomatic.
What is Thunderstorm Asthma?
Thunderstorm asthma is an acute, short-lived outbreak of asthma symptoms that occurs during or just after a thunderstorm. It is caused by a unique combination of meteorological factors, including pollen grains bursting due to lightning strikes, strong winds that disperse these pollen particles, and humid air that allows the particles to penetrate deep into the lungs.
Who is at Risk?
Individuals who are already diagnosed with asthma are most susceptible to thunderstorm asthma, but even those who have never experienced asthma symptoms before can be affected. Children, young adults, and individuals with allergies are particularly at risk.
Symptoms of thunderstorm asthma can appear suddenly and can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
To prevent thunderstorm asthma attacks, individuals who are at risk should:
- Monitor pollen forecasts and take precautions when pollen counts are high
- Stay indoors during thunderstorms, especially during the first 20 minutes of the storm
- Use air conditioning to keep pollen out of your home
- Have their asthma medication readily available
- Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms worsen