Thunderstorm-associated asthma in an inland town in
south-eastern Australia. Who is at risk?


S.T. Girgis, Institute for International Health, P.O. Box 1225, Crows Nest, NSW 156, Australia. Fax: 61 299266830


The aim of the study was to characterize patients at risk of asthma exacerbation during spring thunderstorms and identify potential measures to ameliorate the impact of those events.

A case-control study was conducted among patients aged 7–60 yrs, who attended Wagga Hospital (NSW, Australia) for asthma during the period of 1 June 1997 to 31 October 1997. One hundred and eighty-three patients who attended on 30 and 31 October 1997 were the cases and the remaining 121 patients were the controls. Questionnaire data were obtained from 148 (81%) cases and 91 (75%) controls.

One hundred and thirty-eight (95%) cases who attended during the thunderstorm gave a history of hayfever prior to the event compared to 66 (74%) controls who attended at other times (odds ratio (OR) 6.01, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.55–14.15); 111 (96%) cases were allergic to rye grass pollen compared to 47 (64%) controls (OR 23.6, 95% CI 6.6–84.3). Among subjects with a prior diagnosis of asthma (64% cases and 82% controls), controls (56%) were more likely to be taking inhaled steroids at time of the thunderstorm than cases (27%, OR 0.3, 95% CI 0.16–0.57).

History of hayfever and allergy to rye grass are strong predictors for asthma exacerbation during thunderstorms in spring. The lower rate of inhaled steroid use in thunderstorm cases suggests that this treatment may be effective in preventing severe attacks during thunderstorms.