Study finds thunderstorms linked to respiratory illnesses

Researchers find increase in ER visits day before thunderstorms

Researchers have found a link between thunderstorms and an increase in seniors with respiratory illnesses visiting emergency departments.

Harvard researchers wanted to see if increases in emergency department visits for respiratory illnesses among older adults happened in the days surrounding thunderstorms because vulnerable groups and those with common chronic respiratory disease may be able to take steps to prevent worsening.

The study in JAMA Internal Medicine found thunderstorms are linked with an average of 3,700 emergency department visits annually in the U.S. among seniors with respiratory illnesses, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

They collected the data from 1999 through 2012 in more than 3,000 counties and looked at emergency department visits due to respiratory conditions in older patient populations in the days before and after thunderstorms.

They found an uptick of ER visits of those with asthma and COPD on the day before thunderstorms.

While they couldn’t say why the association existed, they had theories. It could be due to change in temperatures and fine particles in the atmosphere or due to an increase in pollen in the build-up to stormy weather.

Older people are more susceptible and should pay attention to the weather to plan accordingly, reducing outdoor exposure and carrying their control and rescue medication with them.

You can find the full study here.

About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.