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What is storm asthma?

It is known that the sun, the rain, the wind, the snow,… the climate and the meteorological conditions influence our physical health and our mental well-being. In this context, can the storm trigger an asthma attack? In the 1980s, several cases ofasthma storm have been listed. A phenomenon that a Harvard University doctor recently noticed.

asthma storm

asthma storm

There are several triggers for asthma attacks, including:

  • The atmospheric pollution;
  • Poor renewal of indoor air;
  • Passive or active smoking;
  • Exposure to chemicals;
  • The appearance of a respiratory infection.

But, weather conditions could also influence the course of theasthmaand in particular the electric storms. In the 1980s, British and Australian researchers and doctors described theasthma storm. They define it as a severe form of asthma attack that can occur within hours of a severe electrical storm. Since then, many cases have been described.

Thunderstorms can cause severe asthma attacks

In 2016, a major storm in Australia caused more than 9,000 cases of severe asthma attacks in patients requiring urgent medical attention. At least 8 deaths have been recorded in patients as a result ofasthma storm. Storm asthma is the onset of an asthma attack or worsening of asthma after a storm episode. It can affect people:

  • asthmatics;
  • Suffer from allergic rhinitis;
  • Suffer from hay fever or other allergies.

How to explain that a storm can trigger an asthma attack? especially since, in general, rainy episodes improve allergic symptoms by reducing the concentration of pollen in the air. According to the researchers, thunderstorms have climatic and physical characteristics that tend to:

  • Concentrate pollen particles in the air;
  • Reduce the size of pollen particles, facilitating their entry into the upper and lower respiratory tract.

Protect yourself in case of a stormy episode

In a recent study, 144 of 228 participants with seasonal allergies experienced an episode ofasthma storm, or 65%. This result attests to the high frequency of asthma due to thunderstorms in the population with a history of allergies. Furthermore, asthma attacks associated with storms are far from benign. In fact, the study reveals that almost half of the affected subjects had to be hospitalized to receive medical care.

In addition, this work indicates several risk factors for an allergic subject to present asthma due to electrical storms:

  • Poorly controlled asthma (no disease-modifying therapy, poorly followed disease-modifying therapy, or ineffective disease-modifying therapy);
  • A low score on the breath test (one of the most commonly used tests to assess asthma);
  • A high level of eosinophils in the blood (cells involved in allergic reaction);
  • Significant levels of exhaled nitric oxide (reflecting lung inflammation in asthmatics).

For asthmatic subjects and in particular for those with one or more risk factors, the proximity of a thunderstorm episode could be a harbinger of thunderstorm asthma. A good reason to stay indoors, away from the air conducive to asthma attacks!

Estelle B., PharmD


– Asthma storm: Bad weather can push allergies and asthma into the danger zone. Accessed July 6, 2022.

#storm #asthma

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