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Allergy UK Warns of Effects of Thunderstorm Asthma

With widespread thunderstorms predicted across the UK today, national charity Allergy UK is warning people living with hay fever and asthma to be prepared for the effects of ‘Thunderstorm Asthma’ This is a weather based condition which can trigger asthma and make symptoms worse for people living with conditions such as hay fever and asthma and Allergy UK are providing advice on how best to manage symptoms during this time.

Thunderstorms can be problematic for those with asthma and hay fever due to higher levels of pollens and pollution particles which are drawn up into the air and turned into smaller particles. These particles are much finer and have the ability to be more deeply inhaled into the lungs, causing irritation and inflammation and the potential to trigger an asthma attack. It is important to recognise that pollen can trigger asthma as well as hay fever symptoms.

Allergy UK Nurse Advisor, Holly Shaw said “Some airborne allergens involved in thunderstorm asthma are grass pollen and mould spores. For people with hay fever and asthma these weather conditions can potentially cause difficulty of breathing and chest tightening. It is therefore extremely important that people take precautions and manage their allergies right now.

"Most people with hay fever and asthma will feel their normal symptoms, like sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes increase as not all thunderstorms, even on days with high pollen counts, trigger thunderstorm asthma.

"However, these weather conditions can cause even mild symptoms to become severe 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 you manage your symptoms and you experience difficulty breathing and tight in your chest make sure to seek medical help without delay. In some cases it can be dangerous".

Allergy UK advises 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
  • 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 about hay fever and asthma, take a look at our useful Factsheets.

For further support or advice visit www.allergy.org or call the Helpline on 01322 619898.

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