June 13, 2024

Berkshire health bosses warn of ‘thunderstorm asthma’

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Asthmatics are being advised to stay indoors before, during and after storms

  • Author, Charlotte Andrews
  • Role, BBC News

People with asthma have been urged by the NHS to take steps to avoid their condition getting worse during thunderstorms.

It follows an increase in asthma-related hospital admissions in June 2023 amid stormy weather, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB) said.

During the summer thunderstorms can cause strong winds to carry small particles of pollen which can reach deeper into people’s lungs, according to the health body.

It has advised people to use their preventer inhalers in the build-up and during thunderstorms.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, About 116,000 people across Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire have asthma

The “thunderstorm asthma” saw 133 people admitted to hospitals in Berkshire West, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire during June 2023.

Comparatively, 62 were recorded in May and 72 in July of the same year, the NHS group said.

Changes in weather, pollen, air pollution and thunderstorms could also trigger breathlessness, wheezing and coughing, meaning those with hay fever were also at risk.

In an effort to prevent asthma attacks and avoid hospital visits, BOB ICB has advised people to:

  • Use their preventer inhalers regularly in the days leading up to an expected storm
  • If possible, stay indoors before, during and after a storm, with windows closed
  • If outdoors, wear a mask to reduce pollen exposure
  • Be aware of weather forecast alerts for high pollen
  • Carry a reliever inhaler before and during a storm

It is hoped the advice will help take pressure off the area’s hospitals.

Prof Tim Hinks, honorary consultant at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, said experts did not yet understand why only some thunderstorms triggered 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,” he added.

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