Have you ever heard of thunderstorm asthma?

Friday 18th May 2012

  • Discover why the advice to stay out of a storm might not just be stating the obvious
  • Sunshine could be the best way to prevent cancer – latest research revelation

On Sunday I hope to explain why I have been cooped up in my study most of the week, and not in the best of humours.

But today I thought I might take a look at a couple of stories concerning the weather, and the increasing incidence of asthma this spring.

As I looked out at yet another rain-soaked afternoon last Tuesday I was desperately trying to put a positive spin on life.

A bedraggled Blackbird looked up from the sodden grass and seemed to imply that there wasn’t much to be optimistic about though.

However, being the happy go lucky chap I am (no really!) I did start to think that this may all be good news for hay fever and asthma sufferers.

Earlier on in the year we began to see early releases of pollen, and in big volumes, but surely all this wet stuff has to help.

If the heavens are continually washing the air we should see a benefit surely.

But no, Mother Nature is never so kind.

The wettest April since records began has just encouraged the fungi to get their pants off and party.

Dr Sankaran, a respiratory specialist and lecturer from Norwich was quoted in several articles describing a phenomenon called Thunderstorm Asthma, stating that the unusually moist conditions have led to a massive increase in patients presenting in his clinics at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital with respiratory problems.

These fungal organisms basically love the wet, and their spores are splashed up from the soil as the heavy rain drums down.

With May continuing the trend for soaking the country, it looks like the fungi funtime is going to continue for some time yet.

The good doctor said fungi allergens were “a very under-recognised cause of asthma”.

Pass me the Salt Pipe.

There are no easy ways to avoid this irritating cloud of spores, and one in particular called Alternaria is known to be a common allergen linked to Hay Fever and Asthma.

The advice from the good doctor was to stay indoors during thunderstorms and to keep windows and doors closed... erm how many of us would do anything else?

Apart from being caught out in a snap shower, many rational folk would not be venturing out in the teeth of a storm for the hell of it.

So, if you have been suffering an unusually aggressive bout of rhinitis, Hay Fever or breathing problems, don’t look accusingly at the fields of yellow peril which is usually considered to be at fault – the culprit is more likely to be down in the dirt.

Of course if we ever do get a return to sunshine the oilseed rape, meadow grasses and lime trees will be waiting to grab us. And here was I hoping to be optimistic!

Get your shirt off when you can – it could PREVENT cancer

At last cause for celebration, and a blow for common sense.

Yes, you did read the headline correctly, - recent research has shown that the big yellow ball in the sky improves our health.

For so long I have been getting increasingly frustrated with reports telling us to slather ourselves, and especially our kids, with ‘factor overcoat’ sun blocks whenever the rain clouds are thin enough for the sun to break through.

This is over-protective parenting at it's worst, and we actually need sunlight in sensible amounts to function.

It supplies our skin with the stimulus to produce vitamin D, it brightens our mood by encouraging the release of endorphins and melatonin and our immune system gets a fillip in the bargain.

Now a research team has concluded that people exposed to more sunlight had a significantly lower risk of developing many types of cancer1.

This was a massive study taking in nearly a half a million US subjects aged between 50 and 70 over a period of nine years. Making the results really powerful from a statistical perspective.

The way the trial was conducted meant that the team analysed the amount of sunlight the subjects were exposed to in a average day, depending on the state they lived in and their occupation.

Overall, they found that the incidence of 12 major neoplasms (cancers) was reduced in those patients who received higher levels of sunshine; significantly these included cancers affecting the lungs, prostate, pancreas, colon and thyroid in both genders.

These conditions are among the most common presentations of cancer in the western world and so should be of interest to a great many people.

However, the results weren’t all good news as the rates of occurrence for major female cancers such as those of the breast, ovaries and uterus were not reduced. This matched the results of another recently published study2.

What this does show is that it is not all about vitamin D (as many of our daily papers would have us believe) but probably indicates that individual cancers respond to environmental factors in different ways.

Despite this less encouraging news it is clear that sunshine and health are positively linked.

Should we ever get the chance to enjoy a summer this year it is worth remembering that a little exposure to the ancient God Helios (as the Greeks knew the sun) is no bad thing.

Let’s just hope we get the chance to put this into practice before too long.

A damaged Ray is not a sunny fellow!

Catch up on my tale of woe on Sunday when I plan to tell you about the reason I didn’t enjoy the brief spell of sun we had last weekend.

More importantly, prepare for the latest thrilling instalment about all things electric and the body – I hope you will find it as fascinating as I do.

Yours, as always


1Lin S.W., Wheeler D.C., Park Y., Cahoon E.K., Hollenbeck A.R., Michal Freedman D., Abnet C.C.,(2012) Prospective study of ultraviolet radiation exposure and risk of cancer. U.S. Int J Cancer. Apr 26.

2Grant W.B., (2012) An ecological study of cancer mortality rates in California, 1950-64, with respect to solar UVB and smoking indices. Dermatoendocrinol. Should this last word have a 't' in it?






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