Thunderstorms Cause Asthma
Reported September 2008
ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Twenty million Americans suffer from asthma, a disease that can be uncomfortable -- even life threatening -- and can interfere with the simplest of life’s routines. For patients with asthma, staying attack-free often depends on knowing what triggers their attacks. Now, research shows something as simple as the weather may be a bigger factor than we ever imagined.
For Leslie Tripp, the first signs of an asthma attack are all too familiar.
"I just feel a tightening in my chest, and I can tell that something's coming on," Tripp told Ivanhoe. "Probably the biggest trigger for an asthma attack for me is humidity."
All kinds of things can trigger an asthma attack. Pets, cleaning solutions, irritants like pollution and pollen in the air, and even perfume are some of those things. Now, you can add something else.
A new study links thunderstorms and asthma attacks. Meteorologist J. Marshall Shepherd, Ph.D., says rain and wind break up irritants in the air and spread them around.
"The rainfall actually can break the pollens into smaller aero-allergens -- the pollen grains -- and this can actually exacerbate upper respiratory problems," Dr. Shepherd, of the University of Georgia, told Ivanhoe. "Secondly, the windy gusts from thunderstorms actually serve to disperse these aero-allergens in a larger area around the thunderstorms themselves."
Climatologists and epidemiologists from the University of Georgia and Emory University analyzed 12 years of emergency room data from 41 hospitals in 20 Georgia counties. Immediately after thunderstorms, E.R. asthma visits tracked significantly higher.
"Certainly, any location that sees thunderstorms regularly throughout the year would likely be susceptible to this phenomenon," Dr. Shepherd said.
For asthma sufferers like Tripp, it could be food for thought. The more she knows about potential asthma triggers, the better shot she has at preventing the next attack.
Researchers say with global climate changes, conditions favorable for thunderstorms could increase in the years ahead -- and with it, the risk to people with asthma. They plan to expand their studies using Doppler radar and other more extensive storm data to study the asthma link in the future.
The American Meteorological Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
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