Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition caused by inflammation and hypersensitivity of the airways. Asthma symptoms include tightness in the chest, wheezing, coughing, and feeling breathless. When asthma symptoms become severe, it is known as an asthma attack, and if not treated, can stop a person from being able to breathe properly – a medical emergency (healthdirect 2017).
It is important to see your doctor if you experience these symptoms, as doctors can test and confirm if you do have asthma, and assist you in getting an asthma management plan in place to minimise the risk of asthma attacks.
A trigger is something that irritates the lungs and airways, causing asthma symptoms to flare up and worsen. Triggers vary from person to person, but some common ones include tobacco smoke, animal fur, exercise, dust mites, changes in weather, cold air, pollen, and having a cold, flu, or a chest infection.
Thunderstorm Asthma occurs when there is a thunderstorm on a high pollen day, and the prime time for it to occur is in spring and early summer.
Grass pollen grains are drawn up into the atmosphere as the storm forms and absorb water when they are in the clouds causing the grains to swell and burst, releasing pollen allergens small enough to penetrate deeply into the small airways in the lungs if inhaled. The storm conditions can bring these particles to the ground, and they have blown along in the winds that occur before the rain begins, and can potentially cause severe asthma attacks in susceptible people who have an allergy to grass pollen.
Treatment and Prevention
If you are asthmatic and tend to be more wheezy in spring and summer, it is important to ensure you see your doctor to get a management plan in place. Your doctor can prescribe preventative medicine which is used daily and reduces the risk of asthma attacks.
Antihistamines and corticosteroid nasal sprays can also be used with asthma medicines to reduce pollen allergy symptoms. Also, ensure you keep your asthma reliever medicine with you.
If you are using a puffer to prevent or relieve asthma, it is critical to use a spacer device with it. Spacers are a plastic cylindrical device with a mouthpiece at one end and assist greatly in ensuring asthma medicine gets properly into your lungs. Chat with your pharmacist for a demonstration of optimal inhaler techniques and for a demonstration on how to use a spacer.
If you know your asthma can be triggered by thunderstorms, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on pollen counts, as well as weather forecasts. There are a variety of apps to make tracking these a simple task on your smartphone.
If a thunderstorm is approaching on a high pollen day, ensure you carry your reliever medicine with you at all times. Stay inside a building or car, particularly in the wind gust period before the rain, and close windows and doors. Additionally, if they are in use, set air conditioners to re-circulate air.