Most people think only cold weather triggers asthma symptoms, but summertime heat and humidity can also bring on asthma attacks for some people. Learn more about why summer conditions can worsen your asthma, and follow tips to manage your symptoms as temperatures soar.
Why Does Summertime Trigger Asthma Attacks?
Several factors combine to make summer a prime time for asthma flare-ups. Here’s what could be making you cough and feel short of breath:
Hot air: Sitting in a comfortable room between 70 and 78 degrees is unlikely to trigger asthma without an allergen present. However, breathing hot air can make your symptoms flare up because heat affects the physiology of your airways.
Humidity: Humid air alone can trigger asthma. Add heat to the mix, and you have a fertile breeding ground for dust mites and mold. These allergens can thrive indoors during the summer, meaning you may not be safe from asthma attacks, even if you stay inside.
Pollen: In late spring and early summer, grass pollen takes to the air. Then, while July sees little pollen activity, ragweed season begins in August. These allergens can trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals.
Ground-level ozone: Ozone contributes to “smog,” the hazy sky you sometimes see hanging over metropolitan areas. This known lung irritant is more common in the summer when high temperatures and sunlight spur the chemical reaction needed to create it. Ozone can reduce lung function and make it more difficult to breathe deeply, especially if you have asthma.
Wildfire smoke: Hot, dry conditions can lead to forest fires. Smoke plumes from these blazes can travel hundreds of miles, lowering the air quality wherever they go. Your asthma symptoms could worsen if you’re forced to breathe smoky air.
Thunderstorms: Sudden weather changes, such as those seen before and during a thunderstorm, can cause chest tightness and coughing in sensitive people. Windy conditions can also blow pollen high into the air, irritating your lungs when they settle back down.
Swimming pool chlorine: Swimming is a recommended activity for people with asthma, and it reduces the risk of becoming overheated in the summer. However, some people are allergic to the chlorine added to swimming pools.
Tips to Manage Asthma in the Summer
If you discover that heat, humidity, summer air pollution, and other factors set off your asthma, try these strategies to help prevent flare-ups:
Stay indoors during heat waves: Avoid situations where you must inhale hot air. This means staying in a cool, air-conditioned building when it’s hotter than 85 degrees outside whenever possible.
Lower the indoor humidity: You can’t control the weather, but you can keep your home environment comfortable. Running the air conditioner naturally dehumidifies the air, but this isn’t always enough. If the humidity climbs above 50%, dust mites and mold could become a problem. Setting up a portable dehumidifier is an easy way to prevent excessive moisture.
Keep an eye on pollen counts: When levels become elevated, stay indoors and keep the windows closed.
Monitor the air quality index (AQI): Check your favorite weather app. You should find the current AQI, possibly even an air quality forecast for the day. If the index rises above 100, stay indoors if you can. If you must run errands, drive with the windows up and the AC set on recirculation mode.
Watch the weather forecast: If you know thunderstorms affect you, stay indoors before, during, and immediately after the storm.
Plan outdoor activities for earlier or later in the day: Most of the time, heat, humidity, poor air quality, and thunderstorms are more likely in the afternoon. That’s why mornings and evenings are typically the best times to be outside if you have asthma.
Pay attention to symptoms at the pool: Now that you know chlorine is a possible asthma trigger, be more conscious of symptoms that appear while swimming. If you have to reach for your inhaler after a few laps, consider trying a different physical activity, preferably indoors to avoid your summertime asthma triggers.
Use your inhalers: Take your regular preventer inhaler as usual to reduce the risk of attacks. Then, keep your reliever inhaler with you so you can act quickly if flare-ups occur. Remember, it’s important to store inhalers in a cool place out of direct sunlight, so try keeping yours in an insulated lunchbox when you’re out and about on a hot day.
Talk with your doctor: If you spend time outside in hot, humid weather, you’ll soon know if summertime conditions pose a problem for you. Don’t feel as though you need to endure worsening symptoms. If you start taking your reliever inhaler three or more times per week, talk to your doctor about possibly changing your medication dosage, at least until the weather cools down.
Control your allergy triggers: Do you think pollen or mold could be to blame for your heightened symptoms? Get tested for allergies so you can find any undiagnosed conditions, begin taking the proper medications, and start limiting your exposure to the allergens that bother you.
If you suspect you may have undiagnosed asthma or allergies, it is advisable to get tested as soon as possible. Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM offers asthma screening and treatment to help you manage your condition successfully. Allergy testing for inhalant allergens and foods is also an option you may wish to pursue. To request an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area, please call 610-825-5800 today.
About 50 million Americans have allergies, and it’s the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the nation. It’s estimated that 40 percent of children have allergies, and allergies can get in the way of school and other activities. How do you know if your child is suffering from allergies? There are some common symptoms that are fairly easy to spot.
Children tend to have different types of allergies at different ages. Younger children are prone to skin allergies and rashes. Older children, however, are more likely to have respiratory allergies that cause coughing and wheezing.
What is an allergy? Allergic reactions happen when a person’s immune system misidentifies a normal substance as something harmful. This substance, an allergen, doesn’t bother people who aren’t allergic to it. For a person with allergies, however, the allergen triggers reactions, as the immune system goes to battle with it.
Children with respiratory allergies may have runny, itchy, red, or swollen eyes for more than a week and a chronic runny nose. The child may complain of itchy ears or an itchy mouth or throat. These symptoms may be hay fever or allergic rhinitis, which is the most common form of allergy among children. If your child tends to get this kind of symptoms, notice if they recur each year at the same time of year.
Respiratory allergies can affect a child’s breathing. Listen to your child breathe and notice if there’s a noisy wheeze, rapid breathing, or shortness of breath. If the child has any of these symptoms, it’s time to see the pediatrician. A dry, hacking cough with clear mucus also signifies respiratory allergies. Respiratory allergies often cause sleep disruptions, causing fatigue and listlessness in school age children. Studies show that student with untreated allergies have significantly lower learning scores that their classmates without allergies along with more missed days from school. Further, if you notice that your child tires more easily than usual when playing, the problem may be allergies.
Sometimes, a child’s skin will react to an allergen. Did you know that the skin is not just the body’s largest organ but also part of the immune system? Keep an eye on your little one’s skin, looking for eczema, which looks like dry, red, scaly, itchy patches. Hives, too, are a sign of allergy. Ranging in size from the size of the tip of a pen to the size of a dinner plate, hives are red welts on the skin.
Some allergies can cause trouble with the digestive system. Stomach cramps, repeated diarrhea attacks, headache and fatigue can all point to an allergy. You might also notice a change in your child’s behavior, and an increase in crabby moods or restlessness. Pay attention to what happened right before the symptom occurred, and you might be able to determine the allergen.
Your child could be allergic to your pet’s dander, saliva, urine and fur, and that allergy may be causing sneezing and wheezing. If the problem is a food allergy, it’s likely to be one of the eight foods that contribute to 90 percent of food allergies:
Tree nuts- (almonds, cashews, and walnuts)
Shellfish- (crab, lobster, and shrimp)
In addition, some children can’t tolerate citrus. Sometimes it’s easy to identify an allergen, but often you have to play detective. Allergens can lurk where you don’t expect them, like traces of peanuts in cereal or soy in processed foods.
If you think your child may be suffering from allergies, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM. We’ll help you determine the allergen and how to manage it. When you enlist the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist, you can be confident that your doctor will help you find the solutions you need to combat allergies. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, all physicians are board-certified in allergy and immunology and can help you identify triggers and learn to control your symptoms. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about services available to help you cope with your child’s allergies.