Thunder doesn’t just signal that lightning is coming—it can also trigger asthma attacks. We usually think the rain will help our allergies by washing away pollen, but on rare occasions, thunderstorms can actually make allergies worse. During thunderstorms, the low barometric pressure can stir up mold and pollen that can be an irritant to individuals with allergies and asthma. Some researchers believe the thunderstorm’s electrical charge can make mold and pollen particles more likely to stick to the lungs, and asthma-related emergency room visits actually increase during and after some thunderstorms.
Researchers have had a difficult time fully understanding thunderstorm asthma since it is a rare, localized occurrence. Thunderstorms generally don’t last very long, so it can be hard to determine if an asthma attack was caused by the thunderstorm or something else. Plus, different asthma sufferers have different sensitivities, so not everyone with asthma is at risk of experiencing a thunderstorm-related asthma attack. However, researchers believe the increase in ER visits due to thunderstorm asthma could be because individuals with mild asthma might not have a rescue inhaler on hand. Scientists are concerned that cases of thunderstorm asthma could increase due to climate change that would increase the amount of pollen in the air and lead to stronger thunderstorms. If you have asthma, make sure you have rescue inhalers on hand in case you are susceptible to thunderstorm asthma.
- Thunderstorm Asthma, Allergy&Asthma Today, Spring 2015 edition
- Thunderstorms can worsen asthma and allergies, The Washington Post