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Thunderstorms can trigger severe asthma attacks, researchers warned. 

They found that hospital admissions increase up to ten-fold during big storms – with half of the patients not previously known to be asthmatics.

It is believed that ‘thunderstorm asthma’ is caused when pollen is broken up into tiny microscopic particles by the electrical charge of a storm. This means the pollen is inhaled far deeper into the lungs than normal, triggering attacks.

Isabella Annesi-Maesano, of the Pierre Louis Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health in Paris, presented the findings at the British Thoracic Society winter conference. 

She cited examples of extreme weather in which hospital admissions soared. During a major storm in Melbourne, Australia, in November 2016, more than 8,000 people were taken to A&E after asthma attacks, nine of whom died.

In 2002, a smaller storm in Cambridge saw 26 people go to hospital with unexpected asthma attacks. Professor Annesi-Maesano said the link was seen in spring and summer when pollen levels rose.