iPhoneIcon_BigI always thought ‘thunderstorm asthma’, localised epidemics of asthma associated with thunderstorms, was semi-factoid.  Not so.  Apparently, thunderstorms do cause asthma spikes in asthma ED attendance. This is elegantly shown in a recent Emerg Med J.

The authors, Elliot et al., looked at EDSSS data from a night when a a thunderstorm hit the West Midlands in the UK. The Emergency Department Syndromes Surveillance System (EDSSS) registers ED attendance data from a number of UK EDs in near real-time. It can be used to  detect and track anything from influenza outbreaks to nuclear fallout. (It was developed for monitoring in case of a major incident during the London 2012 olympics.)

Below is the data for asthma/wheeze/difficulty breathing subgroup. As you can see, there is a massive spike on 23/7, the night the thunderstorm hit.

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 01.24.31

Paper lives here:

Emerg Med J. 2014 Aug;31(8):675-8. doi: 10.1136/emermed-2013-203122. Epub 2013 Oct 7. The impact of thunderstorm asthma on emergency department attendances across London during July 2013. Elliot AJ1, Hughes HE1, Hughes TC2, Locker TE3, Brown R4, Sarran C5, Clewlow Y5, Murray V6, Bone A6, Catchpole M7, McCloskey B8, Smith GE1.

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  1. tony says:

    one thunderstorm in one month of monitoring? this is almost a case report.

    there are many potential confounders here, so im not sure id throw my hat in with the ex-semi-factoid group yet based on this one paper.

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