Thursday's storms could make it harder for some people to breathe today because of a little-know condition called "thunderstorm-related asthma."

Unlike rain showers that can clear the air, thunderstorms are different with bigger raindrops that fall faster.

"Those rain drops, we think, are able to rupture pollen grains that then disperse much smaller granules and submicron particles that can more easily be inhaled deeper into our lungs where they cause effects," said Stefanie Sarnat, an epidemiologist at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health.

Sarnat is part of a team of Emory researchers who are still collecting data on thunderstorm-related asthma after publishing a study a few years ago.

University of Georgia researchers also took part in the study, which examined 12 years of emergency department visits for asthmatic attacks.

They found the number of visits went up by 3 percent in the 24 hours following thunderstorms.

"It could be that thunderstorms are impacting morbidity on a broader scale with people self-treating at home or going to other care, their general practitioners or primary care for treatment," Sarnat added.

In addition to heavy rain, Sarnat said high winds might also play a role by picking up pollen particles and dispersing them.

Anyone with allergenic asthma or labored breathing should avoid going outside during and after a thunderstorm, Sarnat warned.

Small pollen particles can linger for a full 24 hours.