NHS advises on how to avoid 'thunderstorm asthma' this summer

Advice on avoiding 'thunderstorm asthma' has been given <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
Advice on avoiding 'thunderstorm asthma' has been given (Image: Newsquest)

Oxfordshire NHS officials are urging people with asthma to use their preventer inhalers in the build-up to and during thunderstorms to reduce the risk of their condition getting worse.

The recommendation stems from the increased risk of 'thunderstorm asthma' due to a surge in pollen distribution during warmer months.

Thunderstorms can lead to more pollen being carried on strong winds, which can result in pollen being broken down into smaller particles which can reach deeper into people’s lungs and lead to asthma attacks.

Oxford Mail: Asthma attacks are often more common during thunderstorms
Oxford Mail: Asthma attacks are often more common during thunderstorms

Asthma attacks are often more common during thunderstorms (Image: NQ archive)

Asthma sufferers have been advised to use their preventer inhalers regularly in the days leading up to an expected storm, stay indoors before, during and after a storm, with windows closed, and be aware of weather forecast alerts for high pollen.

Dr Abid Irfan, a GP and director of primary care at Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board, said: "Thunderstorms can trigger asthma attacks.

"If you have asthma use your preventer inhaler regularly in the days before a forecast thunderstorm and keep your reliever inhaler with you before and during the storm.

"In general, people living with both asthma and hay fever are advised to take antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays as needed to help control their pollen allergy.

"Last year, summer thunderstorms led to an increase in people being admitted to hospital for their asthma across the integrated care board – people can help us buck this trend by taking the necessary precautions and advice to treat their asthma especially around thunderstorms.

"This will also take pressure off our local hospitals."

Approximately 116,000 residents of Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West suffer from asthma and are at risk of experiencing breathlessness, wheezing and coughing due to changes in weather, including thunderstorms.

Data from the UK Health Security Agency revealed a correlation between thunderstorms and increased hospital admissions of asthma patients across the country.

In June 2023, more people across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West required hospital care for their asthma than they did in other months.

Professor Tim Hinks, associate professor and honorary consultant at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, added: "We don’t yet know why only some thunderstorms trigger asthma attacks, but every few years, usually in June, a severe event happens in UK leading to hundreds of people with asthma seeking emergency help.

"Severe and sometimes fatal attacks can happen even in people with ‘mild’ asthma.

"The most important way for people with asthma to keep safe is to use your preventer regularly and keep your reliever with you, particularly if you’re having symptoms of hay fever or asthma during pollen season."