Thunderstorm Asthma

Thunderstorm Asthma


Hot, dry, windy weather during the pollen season, is an allergy sufferer’s worst nightmare. Pollen counts at a peak, it would seem reasonable an individual with pollen allergies could welcome a weather forecast for thunderstorms and rain, with open arms. Rain could after all, help to relieve allergy symptoms, by washing pollen from the air.

To the contrary, experts are warning individuals affected by pollen allergy, need to be aware of the danger associated with being outdoors during a thunderstorm in the pollen season: Thunderstorm Asthma (D’Amato et al., 2011).

During the pollen season, thunderstorms and rain often do not provide the symptom relief individuals with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma expect. This is because, though rain can help to wash pollen from the air, when pollen granules come into contact with moisture they can burst and release hundreds of smaller allergenic particles. More easily respirable than intact pollen granules, these smaller allergenic particles are able to penetrate deep into the small airways of the lungs and induce asthma attacks in pollen allergic individuals (ASCIA, 2015; D’Amato et al., 2011).

Thunderstorm asthma is not limited to affect only individuals known to have asthma. Attacks can also be triggered in individuals with severe allergic rhinitis, without previous asthma symptoms (ASCIA, 2015). It is therefore important all individuals affected by pollen allergy become aware of the close association between the arrival of thunderstorms and asthma morbidity (ASCIA, 2015; D’Amato et al., 2011).

Epidemics of thunderstorm asthma have been described in multiple locations throughout the world, including within Melbourne, Australia (ASCIA, 2015; D’Amato et al., 2011). Unfortunately, as the Earth’s climate changes and thunderstorm occurrence during spring and summer increases, the number of individuals with pollen allergy, affected by thunderstorm asthma worldwide, looks only to get worse (D’Amato et al., 2011).


D’Amato, G., et al. 2011. Climate change, migration, and allergic respiratory diseases: An update for the Allergist. World Allergy Organisation, 4, 7: 120-125. Accessed March 1, 2016:

Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy [ASCIA]. 2015. Thunderstorm asthma: Information for patients, consumers and carers. Accessed March 1, 2016:

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