Home Gesundheit Gewitterasthma könnte mit dem Klimawandel häufiger auftreten

Gewitterasthma könnte mit dem Klimawandel häufiger auftreten

von NFI Redaktion

On March 5, 2024, thunderstorm asthma can occur without much warning, leaving people with asthma symptoms during or after passing dark clouds.

If you are not familiar, the risk of a thunderstorm asthma attack increases when severe storms occur on a day with very high pollen or spore counts. The storm lifts these particles, adds water, and causes them to explode into smaller grains. Electrical activity in a storm can have the same effect. Strong winds then sweep these particles down and across the ground. People in the path of the storm may experience shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.

With climate change predicting more frequent and intense storms, will the same apply to thunderstorm asthma? „Yes, if only because pollen levels seem to be increasing in many areas due to climate change,“ said Frank S. Virant, MD, head of the Allergy Department at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Most cases of thunderstorm asthma occur in spring and early summer, but this could change as well. „Pollen seasons have become longer and more intense,“ said Shaan M. Waqar, MD, Allergist at ENT and Allergy Associates in Plainview, NY.

„Thunderstorm asthma events are rare, but our changing environment and the increasing number of people with allergies could make such events more frequent and severe in the future,“ agreed Paul J. Beggs, PhD, Associate Professor at the School of Natural Sciences at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.

How to Minimize Your Risk

If you are sensitive to pollen, continue to monitor outdoor concentrations, especially during tree, grass, and weed pollen seasons, recommends Virant. Also, pay attention to weather reports. Watch out for storms that „could enhance pollen exposure through wind speeds exceeding 40 miles per hour and often colder downdrafts.“ Cold is an additional asthma trigger, he noted.

People with asthma should try to stay indoors with windows and doors closed during a severe storm and several hours afterward. Air filters can also help reduce the risk, said Dr. Deepti V. Manian, Allergist and Immunologist at Stormont Vail Health in Topeka, Kansas.

Continue maintenance therapies—like long-acting inhalers and allergy medications—and use a rescue inhaler or nebulizer for immediate symptom treatment, recommended Donald J. Dvorin, MD, from The Allergy and Asthma Doctors in Mount Laurel, NJ. Ideally, people seeking shelter indoors during storms should be „accompanied by friends, or family members who can assist them with rapid transportation to a hospital if needed.“

No Asthma Diagnosis Required

Even people who wouldn’t consider themselves asthmatic can be severely affected. For example, people with hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, are also at risk, said Ajay Kevat, MBBS, MPH, from the Respiratory Department of Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, Australia.

People with hay fever may experience stronger symptoms during and after storms as well. Optimal treatment of allergic rhinitis during pollen season with non-sedating antihistamines and nasal steroids can be helpful, said Virant, rather than „chasing symptoms with medication after they have become severe.“

This event triggered a „thunderstorm asthma epidemic“ of unprecedented magnitude in terms of both speed and geographical range and severity,“ wrote Beggs and colleagues in their June 2018 report in The Lancet Planetary Health.

Major events like this can affect entire communities and quickly overwhelm local health resources. In the 30 hours following the storms in Melbourne, 3,365 people with respiratory problems visited the local emergency room above normal rates—and 476 with asthma were hospitalized. Ten people died: five in the hospital and five could not be revived or died while waiting for emergency services.

Further research is needed „to best prepare for this unpredictable, significant threat to public health,“ wrote Kevat.

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