From the Department of You're Kidding, Right?: Thunderstorms lead to asthma attacks.
Apparently this has been known to researchers for some time, according to climatologists and epidemiologists at the University of Georgia and Emory University, who studied the phenomenon in great detail for the first time someplace that has both a lot of asthma and a lot of thunder: Atlanta, Ga.
The findings: Thunderstorms could have a "significant public health impact."
First, here's the researchers' explanation for why thunderstorms might cause more asthma:
While associations between thunderstorm activity and asthma deaths and emergency room visits have been reported around the world, virtually no studies have been done in the American South, where hundreds of thousands suffer from asthma and thunderstorms are prevalent.
Some people may find it odd that thunderstorms, which supposedly "clear the air" of pollen and pollutants, are implicated in asthma attacks. The most prominent hypothesis as to why it happens, the authors of the paper say, is that "pollen grains may rupture upon contact with rainwater, releasing respirable allergens, and that gusty winds from thunderstorm downdrafts spread particles ... which may ultimately increase the risk of asthma attacks."
The researchers looked at a database of 10 million emergency room visits from 1993 to 2004, in 41 hospitals located in a 20-county area in and around Atlanta. Their conclusion: there's a 3% increase in the incidence of asthma attacks in the day after thunderstorms, according to the research, published in the online edition of the medical journal Thorax.
Because there's a lot of asthmatics in Atlanta (210,000 in all of Georgia), even a 3% increase represents an important increase, from a public health perspective, the scientists said. There are a lot of asthmatics in the country (20 million, 5,000 of whom die every year from it) and the prevalence of diagnoses of the disease increased 75% from 1980 to 1994.
There's only one solution: Stop thunderstorms where they start. Or, uh, maybe figure out how to reduce the incidence of asthma.
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