A collaborative study from Emory University and the University of Georgia (UGA) has established a link between thunderstorms and asthma attacks in the metro Atlanta area. The Emory University researchers’ experience with a comprehensive emergency department database and the UGA researchers’ in-depth knowledge of thunderstorm characteristics joined to formulate the first in-depth study of its kind in the Southeast US.

The researchers found a 3% increase in emergency room visits for asthma attacks in the days following thunderstorms.

“While a 3% increase in risk may seem modest, asthma is quite prevalent in Atlanta, and a modest relative increase could have a significant public health impact for a region with more than 5 million people,” says lead author Andrew Grundstein, a climatologist in the department of geography at UGA.

The researchers analyzed a database consisting of over 10 million emergency room visits in 41 hospitals in a 20-county area. The data came from between 1993 and 2004. Throughout that time there were 564 recorded thunderstorm days. Additionally, 215,832 asthma related emergency room visits were recorded, 28,350 of those occurred following a thunderstorm day.

The full study is published in the online version of the journal Thorax.