Breathing is difficult, the nose itches, the mucous membranes swell. Some people notice such an allergic attack immediately after a thunderstorm. In such cases, experts speak of “thunderstorm asthma” – a rare phenomenon that has only been known for a few years.
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What is thunderstorm asthma?
Scientists first discovered the disease in 2016. At that time, several thousand people in Melbourne, Australia, complained of asthmatic and allergic symptoms after a heavy thunderstorm, writes the Allergy Information Service. They had to be treated in the hospital. Eight people even died in a row. In Germany, the phenomenon has so far only rarely occurred, it is said.
According to the Allergy Information Service, thunderstorm asthma is noticeable
severe asthma attacks strong signs of allergic rhinitis (itching and sneezing) and swelling of the nasal mucosa.
This causes difficulty breathing through the nose. “The severe allergic symptoms appear about 20 to 30 minutes after the start of a thunderstorm,” it continues. Why? At least scientists have a theory for that.
What triggers thunderstorm asthma?
If there are a particularly large number of allergens in the air over a certain period of time and these are then whirled up by the thunderstorm, a corresponding number of them will enter the respiratory tract when inhaled. Means: Thunderstorm asthma occurs when it is pollen season or there are many fungal spores in the air. These swell up due to the electrostatic charge and the humidity, the portal continues. The result: they burst. “The allergy-triggering components of the pollen and spores are thrown into the ambient air and then transported quickly and in large quantities to the ground by strong downwind winds.”
Scientists suspect that the bursting creates smaller particles that can get deep into the lungs when inhaled. As a result, they increase the symptoms in allergy sufferers or trigger them for the first time. According to the Allergy Information Service, other theories assume “that the pollen is easily opened by the thunderstorm and in this state can release its allergens on the mucous membranes faster than closed pollen.” And: In addition to the pollen, there are other particles that are in the air be swirled around, such as bacteria or mold spores.
So it’s not the thunderstorm itself that triggers allergic asthma. It’s still the pollen and particles. However, the thunderstorm is responsible for these getting deep into the lungs and triggering more severe symptoms.
How can victims protect themselves?
Experts recommend that anyone who already suffers from an allergy should remain in a closed room during and after a thunderstorm. Can’t avoid being outdoors? The Federal Association of Pneumologists then advises you to protect your airways by breathing in through your nose with a cloth and exhaling through your mouth without a cloth. In general, allergy sufferers can prevent long-term with a specific immunotherapy. The experts recommend that asthma patients who are particularly at risk inhale cortisone spray – in accordance with medical guidelines.