Combined Exposure to Birch Pollen and Thunderstorms Affects Respiratory Health in Stockholm, Sweden-A Time Series Analysis


Background: Thunderstorm asthma is a term used to describe surges in acute respiratory illnesses following a thunderstorm and is often attributed to an intense exposure to aeroallergens. Several episodes of thunderstorm asthma have been observed worldwide; however, no such cases have been described in Sweden. In Sweden, the most prominent exposure to air-borne pollen occurs during the blooming of the birch. We aimed to explore the associations between respiratory health and the combined exposure to thunderstorms and birch pollen. Methods: We investigated the association between the daily numbers of outpatient visits due to respiratory cases and the combined exposure to thunderstorms and birch pollen during the period of 1 May-31 September in 2001-2017, in Stockholm County, Sweden, by using time series analysis with log linear models. Results: We detected noticeable increases in the number of outpatient visits on both the same day (max 26%; 95% CI 1.16-1.37) and the day after (max 50%; 95% CI 1.32-1.70) the occurrence of a thunderstorm, when the concentrations of birch pollen and the number of lightning discharges were within the highest categories. Conclusions: It is possible that co-exposure to heavy thunderstorms and high concentrations of birch pollen affects the respiratory health of the Stockholm population. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study addressing the thunderstorm-related respiratory illnesses in Sweden and the effects of birch pollen. Our study may be important for future public health advice related to thunderstorm asthma.

Authors: Mare Lõhmus, Tomas Lind, Laura MacLachlan, Agneta Ekebom, Björn Gedda, Pia Östensson, Antonios Georgelis
; Full Source: International journal of environmental research and public health 2022 May 11;19(10):5852. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19105852.