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Thunderstorm Asthma

Thunderstorm Asthma

Thunderstorm Asthma is caused by high winds drawing higher levels of pollens and pollution particles into the air. When the  pollen granules come into contact with water the pollen breaks down into smaller particles that  are released into the air,  these particles  are so small  that when they are breathed in  through  the nose and mouth  they can  get deeper down into the smaller airways in the lungs and trigger asthma symptoms. Some airborne allergens involved in thunderstorm asthma are grass and tree pollens and mould spores.

Most people with hay fever will feel their normal symptoms, like sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes. However, hay fever can cause asthma symptoms to worsen and these weather conditions can cause even mild symptoms to become severe (such as difficulty breathing and chest tightening). So it is important to be prepared and take your allergy treatments and medications to control symptoms.

If you haven’t got anything to help manage your symptoms and you experience difficulty breathing and tightness in your chest, make sure you seek medical help without delay.

During stormy weather, we recommend the following for people with hay fever or asthma:

  • If you can, stay indoors before, during and after the storm and try to keep the windows closed
  • If outdoors wear a mask to reduce your pollen exposure
  • Avoid any triggers that you think may make your asthma symptoms worse (e.g. exercise or alcohol)
  • Take your usual medication (such as along acting and non-sedating anti-histamine) – even if you don’t yet feel symptoms worsening. If you’re not sure what medicine will help you, speak to your pharmacist or GP
  • Keep a reliever inhaler with you so it’s ready to use if you need it
  • Have an asthma action plan that can be referred to help identify when asthma is deteriorating. This can act as a warning sign to step up medication and understand how to treat an asthma attack
  • If you have never had a diagnosis of asthma, but feel very tight in the chest and have difficulty breathing seek urgent medical advice

For more information see

Non-urgent advice: Call 999 or go to A&E immediately if:

You have severe difficulty breathing or you have sudden shortness of breath and:

your chest feels tight or heavy

you have pain that spreads to your arms, back, neck and jaw

you feel sick or are being sick

you’re coughing up blood

you have pain or swelling in 1 of your legs

You could be having a heart attack or a problem with your lungs or airway.

Call 999 or go to A&E immediately as you need treatment in hospital.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

you are feeling short of breath regularly

your shortness of breath gets worse when you’ve been doing your normal activities, or when you lie down

you feel short of breath and have swollen ankles

you’ve been coughing for 3 weeks or more

It’s important to get medical advice to make sure it’s nothing serious. You’re not wasting anyone’s time by getting it checked out.