- How Heat Can Trigger Asthma Symptoms
- Weather Forecast: What’s the Chance of Asthma Attacks?
- Air Quality Life
- Heat, Humidity, and Asthma Symptoms
- Humidity and Heat Are Just the Beginning
- Tips for Surviving Summer Asthma
- Expert Answers: Does Heat Have an Impact on Asthma?
- Weather Can Trigger Asthma
- Beat the heat and asthma
How Heat Can Trigger Asthma Symptoms
Nearly 25 million American adults and children currently have asthma, a condition that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways.
Many things can trigger asthma, including allergies. But did you also know heat can bring on asthma symptoms, which include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, coughing and fatigue.
One study published last year in the journal Environmental Health, which reviewed 12 years of health data and more than 115,000 cases in Maryland, found that extreme heat and heavy rainfall increased the risk of hospitalization due to asthma. The risk increased 23 percent during these weather events and was highest among people between the age of 5 and 17 years old.
Heat, in particular, can trigger asthma symptoms because high temperatures and humidity cause air to not move, trapping pollutants that can irritate the airways.
The figures cited in the study aren’t that surprising. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.6 million people visit the emergency room every year because of asthma.
Asthma symptoms can occur any time during the year, especially in the spring with higher pollen counts. However, several studies have shown changes in weather may play a significant role in asthma flare-ups. One study found that a 10 percent increase in either temperature or humidity led to an increase in asthma-related hospitalizations in children.
The summer weather may trigger asthma symptoms because there’s often poorer air quality during this time of year, particularly in highly-populated cities with plenty of traffic. High winds caused by thunderstorms also can lead to asthma flare-ups because they circulate mold, spores and pollen in the air.
For those with asthma, staying in doors every day when the weather is really beautiful is likely not the best option. However, there are still ways you can reduce your risk of a flare-up. When you’re indoors, keep your windows and doors closed to keep pollutants from getting into your home and diminishing the air quality inside it. Also try to avoid vigorous exercise or physical activity when it is hottest outside, pay attention to air quality readings (which you can find online on weather sites or by watching your local news), drink lots of water to stay hydrated and always keep asthma medication, like an inhaler, with you in case you feel an onset of symptoms when you’re outdoors.
Follow all these steps to stay safe and reduce your risk of an asthma flare-up. Taking these precautions could prevent you from ending up in the hospital.
Weather Forecast: What’s the Chance of Asthma Attacks?
- Allergies, Asthma, and Lung
Dec 7, 2016
Most of us find extreme temperatures – bone-chilling cold and sweltering heat – unpleasant. But if you have asthma, these extremes can be more than annoying. They can trigger an attack and make you struggle for breath.
Check forecasts and conditions before you go out.
Why? Here’s a quick explanation:
- Cold outdoor air is typically dry. Cold, dry air tends to irritate your airways if you have a lung disease such as asthma. It can trigger shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing.
- Hot outdoor air can inflame airways and worsen respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). And if you have asthma, your airways are already inflamed. Hot air can make this all the worse. And hot, humid air causes airways to constrict, making breathing more difficult. Air pollution, which is often greater in hot summer months, compounds the problem.
As with any asthma trigger, you can lessen the impact of temperature extremes by being prepared, following your asthma action plan and limiting your exposure.
The same goes for other triggers related to weather and seasonal changes. For instance, higher pollen counts that are common in spring and fall. And wind, which spreads pollen and mold.
Try these strategies to limit the impact of extreme temperatures and other weather conditions on your asthma.
In all seasons:
- Keep track of weather and air quality levels that could trigger your asthma. Check forecasts and conditions before you go out.
- Control your asthma well at all times by taking your asthma medicines as prescribed. And always carry your prescribed quick-relief medication with you. That way you can take it as soon as symptoms begin.
- Exercise indoors when weather conditions could trigger an asthma attack. This applies on both cold and hot days. And if you have exercise-induced asthma, or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), be aware that cold temperatures can make the condition worse, since cold, dry air irritates airways.
When it’s cold:
- Breathe through your nose. Your nose moistens and warms dry winter air as you breathe it in, reducing the irritation factor. Breathing through your mouth, on the other hand, brings in the cold air that can dry and irritate your airway, potentially leading to an asthma attack.
- Bundle up when you’re outdoors. Wear gloves, a scarf and hat, along with a well-insulated coat.
- Loosely wrap your scarf over your mouth and nose. This creates a pocket of warm, moist air for you to breathe in.
- Take your reliever medication 10 to 15 minutes before going out.
When it’s hot:
- Stay indoors as much as possible in air-conditioned rooms.
- Monitor air quality forecasts. You need to be aware of air pollution throughout the year, but it can be at especially high levels on hot summer days when the air is stagnant.
Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; American Lung Association; Asthma Society of Canada
Air Quality Life
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects hundreds of millions of adults and children around the world.. Asthma narrows the airways that deliver oxygen to the lungs, making breathing difficult. Symptoms are triggered by exposure to airborne particles and other environmental contaminants. Unlike other lung-related diseases such as bronchitis and emphysema, asthma is reversible. However, inflammation can cause long-term damage to the lungs, so symptoms must be controlled or avoided.
Statistics show that hospital visits for asthma peak in colder months, and there are at least two reasons why:
- Changes in temperature, especially rapid decreases in temperature, affect lung function.
- The first seasonal uses of heating systems kick up dust and other particles that trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.
Cold weather and asthma
Rapid changes in the weather, especially the rapid onset of cold weather, are directly responsible for decreased lung function in asthmatics. Cold, dry air irritates the tissue in the lungs of an asthmatic, causing bronchospasms. These spasms, or constrictions, occur around the bronchial tubes and make breathing difficult. Often, excess mucous is also produced, further limiting breathing and causing wheezing and coughing.
The combination of exercise and breathing cold air can trigger asthma flare-ups, making outdoor exercise difficult. In some winter weather systems such as inversions, increased levels of ozone further aggravate asthma symptoms.
Indoor heating systems and asthma
The first uses of indoor heating systems during the autumn and winter months can trigger asthma symptoms. In a study of asthma hospital admissions in New York City and other urban areas, the American Thoracic Society found that emergency clinic admissions for asthma increase with the first seasonal uses of indoor heating. The study suggested that increases in admissions are related to the presence of airborne dust and other pollutants stirred up and into the air from heating system ducts.
Contaminants found inside heating ductwork typically include dust and pollution particles along with mold, bacteria, pollen, dust mites, pet dander and other contaminants. All of these easily become airborne when the heating system is fired up, and all of them are asthma triggers.
Strategies for dealing with asthma in cold weather
- In cold weather, breathing through the nose rather than the mouth may help reduce asthma symptoms caused by cold air. Covering the nose or mouth with a scarf may also help.
- Cleaning the air ducts in a home can help reduce asthma symptoms triggered by indoor pollutants from a home’s indoor heating system. Duct cleaning should be performed by a professional service using vacuums that maintain a negative pressure to pull contaminants out of the house during the cleaning process. Some ducts are not cleanable and some may contain an asbestos lining. Also, try to interview potential service providers to ensure they comply with the highest regional standards. If your ducts are made of – or lined with – fiberglass, the provider should also comply with recommendations from the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association.
- A high-performance whole-house air filtration system such as the IQAir Perfect 16 will virtually eliminate dust and other particles from the heating ducts. The Perfect 16 includes a lifetime clean-duct guarantee. A whole-house air filtration system will also help control seasonal airborne contaminants that are asthma triggers, such as air pollution or wood smoke from fireplaces. In homes without a central forced-air heating and cooling system, a high-performance room air purifier such as the IQAir HealthPro 250 can help eliminate airborne asthma triggers.
Allergens, chemicals and strong scents are common triggers for the almost 25 million Americans with asthma. But high humidity can be just as troublesome.
People with asthma have inflamed airways that are sensitive to things that may not bother other people. That’s why humidity, and all that comes with it, can be a problem for people with asthma.1 Here are some reasons why.
1. Humid air feels harder to breathe in. Some believe moist air is heavier and harder to breathe. Heat and humidity usually occur together. So when the air is harder to breathe, your body temperature can go up, causing you to sweat. This can lead to dehydration, which can make you breathe faster. All of this combined can trigger asthma symptoms.
Consider spending time outdoors in the mornings or evenings when heat and humidity levels tend to be lower. This can be especially important if you exercise outdoors.
2. Humidity can mean extreme temperatures. Since humidity usually is highest in the summer, extreme heat can aggravate your airways, just like extreme cold air can. Asthmatic lungs tend to be more sensitive to extreme temperatures.2
Sudden changes in temperature can affect your lungs too. If you’ve ever left a dry, cold air-conditioned building to go outside into hot, humid air, you know the change in air and temperature can be quite a shock. If you have asthma, the sudden change can actually cause an asthma attack.
3. Humidity can make air quality worse. Humid air alone is not all that triggers asthma attacks. Humidity can increase levels of mold, dust mites and ground-level ozone. All three are known to be asthma triggers.
Ozone, a gas that is a common air pollutant, irritates the airways and can make it harder for you to breathe deeply. Ozone levels can rise along with humidity, triggering asthma symptoms.
Mold and dust mites thrive in humid weather. If you have allergic asthma and have allergies to mold and dust, increases can cause symptoms. Mold can be a problem outside where leaves collect and in more tropical climates. An increase in indoor humidity can allow mold to grow in damp areas of your home like in bathrooms.
Dust mites are more of a problem inside when humidity is high. If the humidity in your home is higher than 50 percent, dust mites can multiply. Running your air conditioner or a dehumidifier can help you balance the humidity in your home.
You can’t always control your exposure to humidity, but there are many treatment options to help you manage asthma symptoms humidity may cause. See a board-certified allergist to help you come up with an asthma management plan.
Medical Review July 2017.
It is important to stay up-to-date on news about asthma and allergies. By joining our community and following our blog, you will receive news about research and treatments. Our community also provides an opportunity to connect with other patients who manage these conditions for support.
If you have a respiratory condition such as asthma or hay fever, make sure you are well prepared when the summer temperatures hit their peak.
Everyone’s asthma is different. Some people get asthma symptoms in hot humid air, while others are affected by hot dry air. Many people find extreme changes in the weather to be their biggest weather trigger – especially moving from a hot humid day outside into a cool building.
Asthma triggered by the heat doesn’t normally cause any extra or different symptoms, so just stay alert to the usual signs that your asthma may be flaring up.
Here are our top tips for helping you and your family keep healthy during these hotter periods.
Try to avoid going out in the sun and make sure you cover up when you are outside. Swap your outdoor run for a gym session or a swim. An air-conditioned shopping centre, cinema or library can also be a good place to escape the heat. If your house isn’t air-conditioned, use a portable fan to keep cool. This can work better if you close up the windows and doors to concentrate on keeping one main room cool.
Be aware of how you’re feeling. If your asthma symptoms do start, act promptly to help stop it turning into an asthma attack.
Your reliever puffer doesn’t like extreme heat either, so make sure it’s not stored in your car glovebox or directly under a sunny window.
Recent studies have found that dehydration can play a role in asthma and allergies. Aside from the many other benefits of increasing water intake (which will likely have been drummed into you already!) it’s vital to drink plenty throughout the day to maintain a good hydration level to lessen your symptoms where possible.
Time your errands
At the risk of sounding like the apocalypse is coming, consider staying indoors and avoiding outdoor exposure during the day, particularly if you’re finding that the hot weather and the poor air quality is a trigger for your respiratory problems. Pollen levels tend to be at their highest before 9am, while ozone levels tend to be at their lowest in the morning, reaching their peak at around 7pm – so try and run errands mid-morning. Consider also visiting a site like pollenforecast.com.au who forecast pollen and mould levels during the day in many states around Australia.
Stay indoors but make sure indoors is healthy
Indoor humidity levels in the home can play an important role in family health, particularly when asthma and/or allergies are present. Higher levels of humidity in your home can provide an environment for two undesirable triggers – dust mites and mould. There are a number of products on the market that can help to control indoor humidity including air-conditioners, dehumidifiers and heaters. You can find out more about how these products work in our Indoor Humidity factsheet.
Avoid the triggers you can control
Be aware of your usual triggers that might coincide with hot weather – cigarette smoke, bushfires and pollen in particular. Air pollution and ozone levels can trigger asthma symptoms in some people with asthma.
Keep an eye on the weather alerts for high pollution or high ozone days. On days of high pollution or ozone, or when there is bushfire smoke, try to stay indoors with the doors and windows closed. Also try to do as little outdoor activity as possible, especially later in the day. If your asthma symptoms do start, act promptly to stop it turning into an asthma attack.
Enlist the help of a professional
Don’t feel like you have to endure worsening symptoms during the hot and humid weather. If you’re having breathing difficulty and finding that it’s interfering with your normal activity, it’s important that you seek medical help.
Make sure all your medication is available and up-to-date. At this time of year, it’s easy to get caught off guard with expired medication or worse, no immediate access to the right medications.
For more information visit nationalasthma.org.au
Image: Vegan Liftz
Heat, Humidity, and Asthma Symptoms
People with mild asthma may find that when summer temperatures soar, along with humidity levels, their asthma symptoms begin to act up. Breathing in such hot environments could lead to coughing and shortness of breath, suggests research reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. The researchers found that a room temperature of about 71 degrees Fahrenheit did not trigger asthma symptoms, but breathing in super-hot air at 120 degrees F did. They concluded that summer asthma exacerbations could be due, in part, to heat stress that affects the physiology of your airways and leads to an asthma reaction. At the same time, you might trace episodes of summer asthma to smog and other environmental pollutants.
Though it’s true the 120-degree temperatures used in the study aren’t typical outside of desert areas, temperatures can approach that peak almost anywhere during intense heat waves. So when the sun is calling and you’re itching to go outdoors, remember the risks summer’s heat and humidity pose.
Humidity and Heat Are Just the Beginning
“When you have an increase in humidity, the humidity itself can trigger asthma,” says asthma expert Susan S. Laubach, MD, an associate physician at the Allergy & Asthma Medical Group and Research Center in San Diego.
Add some heat to that humidity and you have a fertile breeding ground for allergens such as dust mites, which thrive in humid air, and mold. “Mold thrives in moist, warm, dark environments,” says Dr. Laubach. “In the summer, we see an increase in mold.” These allergens also worsen the impact of environmental pollutants, such as exhaust fumes and ozone. A study published in the journal Asthma looked at hot temperatures and asthma exacerbations and found that when the temperature is about 86 degrees, pediatric hospital visits for asthma symptoms increase in proportion with the amount of elemental carbon (a pollutant) in the air.
For some, summer heat and humidity may be complicated by seasonal irritants such as smoke from fires. Research published in Environmental Health Perspectives revealed an increase in doctor visits because of respiratory symptoms in a Canadian community surrounded by several forest fires.
Tips for Surviving Summer Asthma
Many of the strategies you can use to prevent summer asthma symptoms from flaring are the same ones you would apply to stay comfortable:
- Keep your cool. If you have asthma, try not put yourself in situations where you would have to inhale very hot air. This may be tough if you have a job that requires you to be outside in the heat, but consider asking for another task assignment if it’s possible to spend the hottest days or the hottest parts of the day in an air-conditioned space.
- Check in with your doctor. You’ll know fairly soon if hot, humid air poses a problem for your asthma control. The researchers who studied the effects of hot air saw asthma symptoms occur within as little as four minutes of inhaling the hot and humid air. Don’t feel as though you have to endure worsening symptoms. Talk to your doctor about possibly changing your medication dose or scheduling, at least until the weather cools down.
- Get allergies under control. If you suspect that you’re allergic to a summer trigger, such as mold or grass pollen, ask your doctor about getting tested and taking allergy medications. This will prevent an asthma exacerbation caused by an undiagnosed allergy. Also discuss ways to limit exposure to those allergens that trigger your asthma.
- Pay attention to the air quality index. Tune in to local news and weather programs that offer air quality information in the mornings so you can plan your day. Smartphone users can download a new “State of the Air” app from the American Lung Association, available for iPhones and Androids. You can also check air quality online . If air quality is poor, try to stay inside or, if you’ll be driving, keep the windows closed and the air conditioning set to “recirculate” so you don’t pull pollutants into the car from the outside.
- Stay indoors on hot, humid days. If going out into the sauna-like summer is too much for your asthma, stay inside with the air conditioning on, especially during the heat of the day.
- Run errands early. On days when heat, humidity, and air quality are going to be unpleasant, try to take care of any must-do errands early in the day, before the uncomfortable conditions set in.
- Be careful at the pool. Swimming is a recommended exercise for asthmatics, and in the summer it reduces your chances of becoming overheated. However, some people find that their summer asthma symptoms are triggered by the chlorine added to most pools for water safety. If chlorine triggers symptoms in you, find another activity or exercise program, such as an indoor fitness class.
- Keep indoor humidity low. Even if you can’t control the weather, you can control your home environment. Set your indoor humidity to 50 percent or lower to cut down on dust mites, mold, and humidity-related allergens that grow in warm, moist environments.
If you have summer asthma, the season can seem to last forever. But a few lifestyle changes can limit your exposure to heat and humidity. Take care of yourself, and take heart that cooler days are ahead.
Expert Answers: Does Heat Have an Impact on Asthma?
Sometimes ones asthma gets worse when it’s very hot outside. So we asked our community experts the question: Does heat have an impact on asthma? Here are the expert responses.
Heat is one of my biggest asthma triggers. Some asthmatics are effected more than others when it is hot outside. Generally, when it’s warmer outside heat and sunlight combine with pollutants which can set off ones asthma. Heat with humidity can also be an asthma trigger. The moisture in the air makes it damp and heavy can make it harder to breathe. Humidity can also cause mold to grow faster which is another known asthma trigger. Not all asthmatics are adversely effected by the hot and humid air. Some do better when it is humid. Others notice that the dry hot air sets off their asthma more. It is important to figure out what your individual triggers are so you can take steps to protect yourself.
This is a good question and one that many community members and asthmatics, in general, are concerned with. If you’ve ever exercised on a hot, summer day you know that it seems harder to breathe. Add some humidity to the scenario, and breathing is even more difficult. These very same conditions seem to create much more difficulty for those with asthma. It is not entirely clear as to why the heat and humidity affects asthmatics the way it does. Quite simply, hot, humid air is heavier than ‘normal’ air and so, is more difficult to breathe. These conditions create a chain reaction of events that can raise the body temperature, increase sweating and possibly dehydration, and cause you to breathe at a faster rate. When a person with asthma is having difficulty breathing (no matter what the reason), these conditions can easily exacerbate asthma symptoms, even without actually causing them. There is also evidence to suggest that hot air can, in fact, irritate the airway and lead to the type of inflammation that triggers asthma symptoms. Researchers found that people with asthma experienced airway restriction when breathing very hot air for an extended period of time while people without asthma did not. This indicates that heat itself may be a cause of airway inflammation and asthma. If humid air is heavier and harder to breathe, the moisture in the humid air actually helps with the absorption of oxygen. On the other hand, many people with asthma experience asthma symptoms when the air is too dry (i.e. during the winter) because insufficient moisture can also lead to airway inflammation. It seems that air that is either too high or too low in humidity can trigger asthma symptoms. Symptoms typically include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Remember too, that heat and humidity are not the only cause of asthma attacks during the summer months. Warm, moist air can create an ideal environment for dust mites to grow and multiply. Mold also tends to proliferate and spread during the summer months for the same reason. Even if you are not actually allergic to these irritants, they can still aggravate your asthma symptoms and trigger an attack. Regardless of why hot, humid weather creates trouble for people with asthma, experts advise to avoid strenuous activity during these times. Stay indoors as much as possible on warm days and maintain a humidity level in your home below 50%. It is also important for people with asthma to stay hydrated and use their medications as directed.1-4
The warmer the air, the more humidity it holds. Hot, humid air can make the air feel heavy and hard to inhale. Humidity also creates a good environment for both dust mites and mold spores, two very common asthma triggers. Mold spores like a humidity greater than 50%, and so this is why most asthma experts recommend setting the humidity in your home at less than 50%. One way to do this is by using a dehumidifier. Another solution is to use an air conditioner.
Response from Lyn Harper, MPA, BSRT, RRT:
There is no question that many asthma sufferers find the hot weather to trigger symptoms. There may be a number of reasons for this. First, the hot summer air tends to trap more pollutants that can cause breathing problems. Hot, humid air is also the ideal growing environment for mold spores – another irritant to many with breathing difficulties. Pollen is often another problem in the hot, humid days of summer.
Some of the symptoms can be mitigated by using common sense. For instance, if the hot weather is truly bothersome to your airways, try to avoid going out during the hottest part of the day and if you have to go out, avoid activities that are particularly strenuous.
If pollen is a trigger for you, get in the habit of checking the daily pollen count before going out. If it’s high and you must be out in it, make sure you have your rescue inhaler with you and are maintaining a good schedule of all your prescribed medications.
Use your Asthma Action plan! If you don’t have one, you can download one from any number of websites. Here are a few you may like:
Response from Lorene Alba, AE-C:
Extreme changes in weather can definitely make asthma symptoms worse! Everyone with asthma reacts differently to weather; some are triggered by very cold temperatures while others find the cold air relieves symptoms. Same with heat and humidity. Even thunderstorms can affect asthma, especially if there is a change in barometric pressure and you have sinus issues. Quick and drastic changes in temperature (such as leaving the humidity outside and entering a cool building) can bring on sudden symptoms, so always carry your rescue inhaler with you.
Weather Can Trigger Asthma
Some types of weather can trigger asthma symptoms. These can include:
- High heat
- Cold temperatures
- High humidity
- Sudden weather changes
Extreme weather can irritate the airways more than milder weather. Weather can also affect pollen counts. This can cause asthma symptoms in those with allergic asthma.
Climate change (an extended change in weather patterns) affects health. With increasing temperatures and more severe storms, people with asthma are at higher risk of weather triggering asthma flares. Studies suggest climate change can actually cause asthma as well.
Cold, Dry Air
Dry and/or cold air is a trigger for airway narrowing (bronchoconstriction).
Cold air can especially affect you if you have exercised-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). It is also called exercised-induced asthma.
When you exercise, you breathe faster and deeper because your body needs more oxygen. You usually inhale through your mouth, causing the air to be dryer and cooler than when you breathe through your nose.
Exercise that exposes you to cold, dry air is more likely to cause asthma symptoms than exercise involving warm and humid air.
Heat and Humidity
Hot, humid air can cause asthma symptoms as well. Humidity helps common allergens like dust mites and mold thrive, aggravating allergic asthma.
Air pollution, ozone and pollen also go up when the weather is hot and humid. Particles in the air irritate sensitive airways.
When hard rain from a thunderstorm hits pollen grains, it can break them up. This makes them smaller and easier to inhale. The wind from the storm then carries the pollen grains where they can be inhaled into your lungs.
Thunderstorm asthma is an event that can affect many people at once. Thousands were affected by an incident in Melbourne, Australia, in November 2016.
What Are Some Resources to Help Me Track the Weather?
Accuweather/AAFA personalized respiratory forecast – Visit Accuweather.com for a personalized asthma forecast for your area. Enter your location. Then from the Personalized Forecasts drop-down menu, choose Respiratory. The Accuweather/AAFA forecast will show asthma alerts along with your forecast. The page also includes tips from AAFA on managing weather-related asthma issues.
AirNow – The Environmental Protection Agency’s site on air quality gives your area’s Air Quality Index (AQI). Based on the AQI, you can tell if air quality could affect your asthma. An AQI of 101 or above is dangerous for those with asthma. You can also sign up to get daily email alerts.
National Allergy Bureau – Sign up to receive email alerts or download the app from the AAAAI to alert you of your area’s pollen counts.
Pollen.com – Enter your zip code to get local pollen forecasts and pollen history.
Medical Review July 2017.
Everyone’s asthma or hay fever is different, so make sure you are well-prepared when the summer temperatures rise.
Some people get asthma symptoms in hot humid air, while others are affected by hot dry air. Many people find extreme weather changes can trigger their asthma – especially when moving from a hot humid weather outside into a cool building.
While asthma triggered by the heat doesn’t normally cause extra symptoms, it is important to stay alert in case your asthma flares-up.
Tips for staying safe in the heat
Be aware of how you’re feeling. If your asthma symptoms start, act quickly to stop it turning into an asthma attack.
- Your reliever puffer doesn’t like extreme heat, so make sure it’s not stored in your car glovebox or under a sunny window
- Avoid going out in the sun and make sure you cover up if you do go outside
- Swap your outdoor run for a gym session or swim
- Escape to an air-conditioned shopping centre, cinema or library
- If your house isn’t air-conditioned, use a portable fan to keep cool. This can work better if you close windows and doors and try to keep one room cool
- Dehydration can play a role in asthma and allergies, so it’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and lessen your symptoms where possible
Planning your day
- Consider staying indoors or avoiding the outdoors in hot weather or poor air quality days as this can trigger your asthma
- Pollen levels are usually highest before 9am, so try and run errands mid-morning
- Visit pollenforecast.com.au to find daily pollen and mould counts for different Australia states
Information contained in this brochure is not intended to replace professional medical advice. Any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a doctor.
Beat the heat and asthma
Hot weather has finally arrived in the Tristate. High humidity can make the air feel like a perpetual sauna, making residents feel uncomfortable and in constant need of a cold shower. It can also endanger the lives of those with severe asthma.
For some people, extreme weather and changing climate conditions can be an asthma trigger. Too much humidity can increase airway resistance, causing a worsening of asthma symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. Heat stress can play havoc on the physiology of airways in asthmatics. High humidity coupled with high temperatures can create an ideal breeding ground for allergens such as dust mites and mold.
Right now, it’s the 90-plus-degree days that concern us, but asthmatics also suffer from irritation of airways during extremely dry weather. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLB) estimates 22 million people in the United States suffer from asthma, an inflammatory disorder of the airways which causes attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing. About 6 million of these people are children, according to the NHLB.
Related story: Breathing Easy at Last, Dayton Woman Keeps Asthma in Check
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that African Americans were 20 percent more likely to have asthma than non-Hispanic whites, in 2014, and three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than the white population, in 2013. African-American children also had a death rate of 10 times greater than that of non-Hispanic children as a result of asthma, according to the department. Combating asthma clearly can be more of a challenge for some of our residents than others.
There are some ways to lessen asthmatic attacks during hot weather.
- Avoid triggers if possible. Keep cool and try to avoid breathing super-heated air. Air-conditioned space may be your best refuge during the hottest periods of the day. If at home, keep the humidity in your living quarters low.
- Use inhaled corticosteroids, long-acting bronchodilators and short-acting bronchodilators for rescue to relieve an asthma attack.
- If you have to be outdoors, have an emergency inhaler close at hand, just in case. Also, take care of yourself during warm weather. Stay hydrated, use sunblock and take proper precautions to avoid overheating.
- Check in with your doctor who can prescribe medications or offer treatments such as bronchial thermoplasty, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved therapy for people with the severest of asthma symptoms.
- Pay attention to the air-quality index. Many news channels and weather forecasts discuss air quality daily. If the air quality is poor, try to stay inside, or if out in your car use air conditioning on “recirculate” to lessen the pollutants in your car.
- Handle your business and errands early in the day before the air quality worsens.
Related story: Beware, Asthma Suffers: Migraines May Worsen
Related: More stories from the experts at UC Health
Sadia Benzaquen, MD, is Director of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center Interventional Pulmonary Program, and Assistant Professor, UC College of Medicine
Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.