Health Hazards of Thunderstorms, from the Harvard Health Letter

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Summer thunderstorms are great theater-sky-spanning fireworks followed by crackling, crashing booms. But thunderstorms are also linked to some negative effects on health, from breathing disturbances to heart problems, reports the August 2010 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

Summer thunderstorms are great theater—sky-spanning fireworks followed by crackling, crashing booms. But thunderstorms are also linked to some negative effects on health, from breathing disturbances to heart problems, reports the August 2010 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

Lightning. Getting hit by lightning isn't as deadly as you might think. In fact, many people survive this rare event, although their injuries can be serious. Direct strikes aren't the only danger. The current from lightning can travel through the ground to a person standing nearby. Lightning can also “splash” from one person to another or from a tree to a person. Lightning can even be dangerous to people inside a building who touch lightning-charged plumbing or telephone wiring. Survivors of lightning-related injuries may end up with neurological and eye problems.

Thunderstorm asthma. Some thunderstorms trigger an increase in the number of people seeking medical attention for asthma. These occasional episodes of “thunderstorm asthma” have been correlated with high pollen and spore counts. How might thunderstorms increase pollen and spores in the air? According to one theory, the gusts of wind that signal the approach of a thunderstorm storm whip pollen off of grass and trees.

Sleep apnea. Falling atmospheric pressure is a common feature of most thunderstorms. People with sleep apnea—periods during which they briefly stop breathing while they sleep—have more apnea “events” on nights when atmospheric pressure is lower.

Read the full-length article: “Storm’s a-comin’”

Also in this issue:

  •     Bicycling safety
  •     Fewer heart attacks
  •     Cherries and gout
  •     Removing blood to treat iron overload
  •     When to stop getting colonoscopies

The Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications (http://www.health.harvard.edu), the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $29 per year.

Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/health or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

Media: Contact Raquel Schott at Raquel_Schott(at)hms(dot)harvard(dot)edu for a complimentary copy of the newsletter, or to receive our press releases directly.

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