Q:

11/6/2019
In our country we have a city with misty, muggy and warm climate. It is one of the most polluted cities. Every year after autumn when thunderstorms are happening, many people are comprised with asthma attacks and have to go to emergency department. Also in this area there is a large number of Conocarpus trees. Some allergists are suspicious that this tree is the culprit. So they provided extracts of the pollen and found that many people have positive skin prick test to this allergen. Now I have two questions:

1) Is it possible that the allergy to this tree can cause thunderstorm asthma?
2) If it is proven that these trees are the cause of thunderstorm asthma, may cutting down trees be a solution?

A:

I could not find any information about the Conocarpus tree. Consequently, I did not find literature about this tree as a cause of thunderstorm asthma. Pollen (from grasses, Parietaria species and olive trees) and mold (Alternaria alternata) have been associated with thunderstorm-related asthma epidemics.

Regarding your second question, since pollens are known to travel great distances, cutting down trees doesn’t seem to be a reasonable solution. Educating people with asthma and pollen/mold allergy about this risk and advising them to stay indoors, keep windows closed, use their controller medications and possibly even wear protective, small-particle respiratory masks if they must be outdoors during thunderstorms that occur during the pollen season are suggestions to consider.

I hope this information is helpful.

Jacqueline A. Pongracic, MD, FAAAAI

Close-up of pine tree branches in Winter Close-up of pine tree branches in Winter