Thunderstorm Asthma

Approximately 1 in 4 people with hay fever also have asthma, many people with hay fever due to grass pollen allergy can get wheeze or chest tightness in the spring and summer season. This is likely to be asthma triggered by grass pollen allergy which can also trigger thunderstorm asthma.

High speed winds, for example during a storm, can distribute pollen grains over long distances. Intact pollen’s are too large to reach your lungs when inhaled, however there are smaller particles that can reach the small airways of the lung and triggering asthma attacks.

Thunderstorm asthma is thought to be triggered by massive loads of small pollen allergen particles being released into the air during some thunderstorms that have rapid changes in wind, temperature and humidity. Not all thunderstorms, even on days with high pollen counts, trigger thunderstorm asthma

A single pollen grain contains up to 700 starch granules and some grass pollen allergens are in these starch granules. When it rains or is humid, pollen grains can absorb moisture and burst open, releasing hundreds of small pollen allergen particles that can penetrate deep into the small airways of the lung.

Not everyone affected by Australian thunderstorm asthma epidemics has had thunderstorm asthma before. However, they have usually had severe hay fever and have been found to be allergic to rye grass pollen. Other allergens such as fungal spores, massive humidity and temperature changes over a short period can also affect some people with asthma and other respiratory diseases during a thunderstorm

Thunderstorms are common in spring so if you have bad hay fever try to avoid being outside on high pollen days, particularly during windy days and thunderstorms. It is not only people with pollen allergy who may be affected by thunderstorm asthma, pollen asthma can be treated effectively by your doctor, if you wheeze during spring or have severe hay fever, see your medical professional for appropriate advice.

For more information please go to the ASCIA website and download the Thunderstorm Asthma PDF